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The Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and
Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions
The Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective
Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and
Summary Executions

New York and Geneva, 2017
© 2017 United Nations
All rights reserved worldwide
UN symbol: HR/PUB/17/4
Sales no.: E.17.XIV.3
ISBN: 978-92-1-154220-2
eISBN: 978-92-1-060582-3
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United Nations’ publication issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Suggested citation: The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016), Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York/Geneva, 2017.

First edition:
© 1991 United Nations
All rights reserved worldwide
Sales No. E.91.IV.1
ISBN: 92-130142-4 01500P
I am very pleased to present the revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016).

This is an updated version of the original UN Manual on the Effective Prevention of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and
Summary Executions of 1991, which, through widespread usage, became known as the Minnesota Protocol. Like
the original, this updated version supplements the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of
Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (1989), which remains an important part of the international legal
standards for the prevention of unlawful deaths and the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths.

The original Minnesota Protocol was drafted through an expert process led by the Minnesota Lawyers International
Human Rights Committee, motivated by an awareness among civil society actors that there was no clear
international reference point at the time to act as either a practical guide for those tasked with conducting
investigations into suspicious deaths, or as a norm against which to evaluate such investigations.

The work pioneered by this group of legal and forensic experts throughout the 1980s, made it clear to all
concerned what valuable allies forensic practitioners could be in the work to better protect human rights.

The finalization of the Minnesota Protocol, dealing with executions, and the subsequent development of the Manual
on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment (Istanbul Protocol), focusing on torture, have now made such professional collaboration a common

In the years since it was drafted, the Minnesota Protocol has been widely used both as an education resource, as a
practical guide, and as a legal standard. Along with the Principles, it has been used by national, regional and
international courts, commissions and committees, such as the European and Inter-American Courts of Human Rights,
the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee.

During the same intervening years, there have also been many welcome developments in international law,
investigative practice and forensic science, and it was brought to the attention of my Office through several
resolutions of the UN Commission on Human Rights that this valuable resource was in need of updating to retain
and expand its relevance. In 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,
Christof Heyns, in collaboration with my Office, initiated a process to revise and update the Protocol and convened
the expert meetings that led to the finalization of this text.

Given the role of forensic experts themselves in devising the original version, it has been particularly welcome that so
many have been involved in this revision process. Likewise, just as the first UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, S. Amos Wako, played a significant role in the original process, I am grateful to
the work of the former Special Rapporteur, Christof Heyns, for the hard work, the rigour and the excellence that has
gone into this vital and timely revision. Although the document remains an expert document, a special effort was
also made to get inputs from States, other international organizations, other Special Rapporteurs, treaty bodies,
NGOs and individual professionals.

This collaborative approach has greatly enriched the text, and has, I hope, made more likely the widespread
distribution of the revised standards to those experts and institutions who can most directly benefit from it.

For the norms of human rights to have real impact, there have to be tangible responses to potential violations.
Investigations and, if appropriate, subsequent accountability processes play a vital role in upholding the right to life.
However, in many contexts in which my Office works, we have found that the awareness of the standards to which
such investigations should be held and of the range of various specialist methodologies required varies considerably.

A suspicious death occurring anywhere in the world is potentially a violation of the right to life, often described as
the supreme human right, and therefore a prompt, impartial and effective investigation is key to ensuring that a
culture of accountability — rather than impunity — prevails. The same applies to enforced disappearances. The
updated version of the Minnesota Protocol provides a comprehensive and shared platform for forensic investigators,
pathologists, law enforcement officials, lawyers, prosecutors, presiding officers and NGOs to make accountability a
worldwide reality.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Background Note
This is an updated version of the 1991 United Nations (UN) Manual on the Effective Prevention of Extra-legal,
Arbitrary and Summary Executions, which, through widespread usage, became known as the Minnesota Protocol
(the Protocol). The Minnesota Protocol was originally drafted to supplement the UN Principles on the Effective
Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.I The UN Principles, which set out
international legal standards for the prevention of unlawful death and the investigation of potentially unlawful death,
were welcomed by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1989 after an intergovernmental process,II and
endorsed by the UN General Assembly in the same year.III

The preparation of the Protocol in its first iteration was facilitated from 1983 to 1991 by the Minnesota Lawyers
International Human Rights Committee (now The Advocates for Human Rights), with contributions from the Science
and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It was adopted by the
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch of the UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs in
1991. It has since been used by national, regional and international courts, and commissions and committees such
as the UN Human Rights Committee, the European and Inter-American Courts of Human Rights and the African
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The UN Principles and the Minnesota Protocol have also been used by
States, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world, becoming an
influential touchstone for death investigations. Since the publication of the 1991 Protocol there have been significant
developments in international law, investigative practice and forensic science. In several resolutions, the UN
Commission on Human Rights mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to update
the Protocol.IV

To ensure that the Protocol retains its relevance and reflects these advances, in 2014 the UN Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, in collaboration with the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, initiated a process to revise and update the Protocol. To this end they appointed an
international team of legal and forensic experts and a high-level advisory panel.V Stuart Casey-Maslen served as the
overall research coordinator. Responsibility for the content of the 2016 Protocol rests with those involved in bringing
it up to date.

The 2016 Minnesota Protocol is to be made available for download in all six UN languages on the website of the
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (

I. The 1989 Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions were endorsed by
UN General Assembly Resolution 44/162 of 15 December 1989 and remain unchanged.

II. ECOSOC Resolution 1989/65 of 24 May 1989.

III. UN General Assembly Resolution 44/162 of 15 December 1989.

IV. UN Commission on Human Rights Resolutions 1998/36, 2000/32, 2003/33 and 2005/26.

The history of this process and references to additional UN and other documents of relevance to investigations are available at:

vi The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
The members of the Legal and Forensics Working Groups were as follows:

Kingsley ABBOTT, Senior International Legal Adviser Dr María Dolores MORCILLO MÉNDEZ, Regional
for Southeast Asia, International Commission of Jurists, Forensic Coordinator, Ukraine, Russian Federation and
Bangkok Western Europe, International Committee of the Red
Fred ABRAHAMS, Associate Director for Program,
Human Rights Watch Michael MOULDEN, Forensic Coordinator, Special
Tribunal for Lebanon, Beirut
Federico ANDREU, Deputy Director of Litigation & Legal
Protection, Colombian Commission of Jurists Prof. Duarte Nuno VIEIRA, Dean of the Faculty of
Medicine, University of Coimbra; President, European
Prof. Ali CHADLY, Head of Department of Forensic Council of Legal Medicine and Iberoamerican Network
Medicine and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, of Forensic Medicine and Forensic Sciences Institutions
University of Monastir, Tunisia
Irene O’SULLIVAN, Senior International Forensic Advisor,
Prof. Stephen CORDNER, Head, International Netherlands Forensic Institute
Programmes, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine,
Australia (editor of the Forensic Science sections of the Dr Thomas PARSONS, Director, Forensic Sciences,
2016 Minnesota Protocol) International Commission on Missing Persons

Dr Uwom O. EZE, Senior Forensic Pathologist, Jennifer PRESTHOLDT, Deputy Director, The Advocates
University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria; and for Human Rights, Minneapolis
Head of Secretariat, African Society of Forensic
Medicine Stefan SCHMITT, Director, International Forensic
Program, Physicians for Human Rights, United States
Dr Luis FONDEBRIDER, President, Argentine Forensic
Anthropology Team, Buenos Aires Prof. Jorgen THOMSEN, Institute of Forensic Medicine,
University of Southern Denmark (Co-author of the 1991
Barbara FREY, Director of the Human Rights Program, Minnesota Protocol)
University of Minnesota (Co-author of the 1991
Minnesota Protocol) Dr Morris TIDBALL-BINZ, Head of Forensic Services,
International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva
Avner GIDRON, Senior Policy Adviser, Amnesty (Chair of the Forensics Working Group)
Howard VARNEY, Senior Program Advisor, International
Alistair GRAHAM, Investigations Team Leader, Center for Transitional Justice, South Africa.
International Criminal Court
The working group of legal experts was supported by
Prof. Françoise HAMPSON, Emeritus Professor, Toby Fisher, Barrister, Landmark Chambers, London, and
University of Essex by Dr Thomas Probert, Senior Researcher, Institute for
International and Comparative Law in Africa, University
Prof. Sarah KNUCKEY, Associate Clinical Professor of of Pretoria. The working group of forensic experts was
Law; Director, Human Rights Clinic; Faculty Co-Director, supported by Stuart Casey-Maslen, Honorary Professor,
Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School (Chair of Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.
the Legal Working Group)

The members of the Advisory Panel were as follows:

Prof. Philip ALSTON, New York University School of Sam HEINS, Counsel, Heins Mills and Olson plc,
Law; Former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, Minneapolis (Co-author of the 1991 Minnesota
summary or arbitrary executions Protocol)

Emilio ALVAREZ, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Dr Vincent IACOPINO, Medical Director, Physicians for
Commission on Human Rights Human Rights; Adjunct Professor of Medicine with the
University of Minnesota Medical School; and Senior
Jay D. ARONSON, Associate Professor of Science, Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center, University
Technology, and Society and Director, Center for of California, Berkeley
Human Rights Science, Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Asma JAHANGIR, Former UN Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Dr Eric BACCARD, Forensic Coordinator, International
Criminal Court Zainabo KAYITESI, Chair, African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights Working Group on Death
Prof. Dame Sue BLACK, Director of Leverhulme Research Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings
Centre for Forensic Science, University of Dundee in Africa
Kathryne BOMBERGER, Director, International Andreas KLEISER, Director for Policy and Cooperation,
Commission on Missing Persons International Commission on Missing Persons
Sean BUCKLEY, Managing Director, Osaco Solutions, Prof. Noam LUBELL, Head of School of Law, University
United Kingdom of Essex; and Swiss Chair of IHL, Geneva Academy of
International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
Prof. Pieter CARSTENS, Professor of Criminal and
Medical Law, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria Prof. Rashida MANJOO, Faculty of Law, University of
Cape Town and former UN Special Rapporteur on
Supt. Anton CASTILANI, Chief, Police Medical
Violence Against Women
Department, Indonesian National Police
Stephen MARGETTS, Legal Officer, UN Secretariat,
Youk CHHANG, Director, Documentation Centre for
New York
Juan MENDEZ, UN Special Rapporteur on torture
Pablo DE GREIFF, UN Special Rapporteur on the
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of
George MUKUNDI, Head of African Governance
Max DE MESA, Chairperson, Philippine Alliance of
Architecture Secretariat, African Union
Human Rights Advocates
Wilfred NDERITU, Managing Partner, Nderitu &
Michel DE SMEDT, Head of Investigations, International
Partners, Nairobi
Criminal Court
Bacre NDIAYE, Former UN Special Rapporteur on
Rafendi DJAMIN, Indonesian Representative, ASEAN
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
Bernard O’DONNELL, Head of Division, Fraud
Ariel DULITZKY, Clinical Professor and Director, Human
Investigations, Inspectorate General, European
Rights Clinic, School of Law, University of Texas at
Investment Bank, Luxembourg (acting in an independent
Austin; and Member and former Chair-Rapporteur,
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearances Dr Cristián ORREGO BENAVENTE, Senior Research
Fellow in Forensic Genetics, Human Rights Center,
Stephen FONSECA, Southern Africa Forensic Adviser
School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
for Africa, International Committee of the Red Cross
Fredy PECCERELLI, Director, Guatemalan Forensic
Jennifer GIBSON, Head of Drones Team, Reprieve,
Anthropology Foundation
United Kingdom

viii The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Navi PILLAY, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Gary SUMMERS, Barrister, 9 Bedford Row
Rights International, London, United Kingdom

Prof. Michael POLLANEN, Chief Forensic Pathologist of Dr Ajith TENNAKOON, Head, Institute of Forensic
Ontario, Canada Medicine and Toxicology; and President, College of
Forensic Pathologists of Sri Lanka, Colombo
Matt POLLARD, Senior Legal Adviser, International
Commission of Jurists Dr Lindsey THOMAS, Medical Examiner, Hennepin
County Medical Examiner’s Office (Co-author of the
John RALSTON, Director, Institute for International 1991 Minnesota Protocol)
Criminal Investigations
Dr Douglas UBELAKER, Professor of Anthropology,
Felix REATEGUI, Senior Associate, Truth and Memory Smithsonian Institution
Program, International Center for Transitional Justice
Dr Vina VASWANI, Head, Department of Forensic
Sir Nigel RODLEY, Professor Emeritus and Chair, Human Medicine, Yenepoya University, India
Rights Centre, University of Essex, Colchester; and
Member, UN Human Rights Committee Dr Jeanine VELLEMA, Head of Division, Forensic
Medicine, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Dr Pornthip ROJANASUNAN, Director, Central Institute
of Forensic Science, Thailand Dr Jairo VIVAS, Head of Forensic Pathology, National
Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences,
Prof. Gert SAAYMAN, Head of the Department of Colombia
Forensic Medicine, University of Pretoria and Chief
State Pathologist, Gauteng Department of Health Prof. David WEISSBRODT, Professor of Law, University
of Minnesota (Co-author of the 1991 Minnesota
Anna Giudice SAGET, Crime Prevention Officer, UN Protocol)
Office on Drugs and Crime
Dr James WELSH, Independent Researcher, formerly
Dr Antti SAJANTILA, Head of Forensic Genetics, Human Rights and Ethics Fellow, London School of
University of Helsinki Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Yasmin SOOKA, Executive Director, Foundation for
Human Rights, Johannesburg

Mishel STEPHENSON, Chief of Forensic Genetics,
In memoriam Sir Nigel Rodley
Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation
(1 December 1941 – 25 January 2017)
Eric STOVER, Adjunct Professor of Law and Public
Health and Faculty Director, Human Rights Center,
School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
(Co-author of the 1991 Minnesota Protocol)

I. C. Interviews and Witness Protection 18

Aims and Scope of the 2016 1. General principles 18
2. Security and well-being 18
Minnesota Protocol 1
3. Recording interviews 18
 II. D. Recovery of Human Remains 19
1. General principles
International Legal Framework 3
2. Labelling 19
A. The Right to Life 3
3. Inventory 20
B. Accountability and Remedy 4
4. Intact bodies 20
C. The Triggering and Scope of the Duty to
5. Skeletal remains on the surface 20
Investigate 5
6. Buried bodies/skeletal remains 21
D. Elements and Principles of Investigations 7
7. Considerations in the recovery
1. Elements of the duty to investigate 7
of buried remains 21
2. Relevant international principles and codes 9
E. Identification of Dead Bodies 21
3. The participation and protection of family
1. General principles 21
members during an investigation 9
2. Visual recognition 21
4. Investigative mechanisms 10
3. The scientific approach to identification 22

III. 4. Events with multiple deaths 22
5. Conclusions about identity 23
Professional Ethics 11
F. Types of Evidence and Sampling 24
IV. 1. General principles 24
2. Human biological evidence
Conduct of an Investigation 12
3. Non-biological physical evidence 25
A. General Principles of Investigations 12
4. Digital evidence 26
B. The Investigation Process 12
1. Collecting and managing data 5. Forensic accounting 26
and materials 13 6. Soil/environmental samples 26
2. Important physical locations, G. Autopsy 27
including the death/crime scene 13
1. General principles 27
3. Family liaison 15
2. The role of radiological imaging in
4. Understanding the victim 15 investigating potentially unlawful death 28
5. Finding, interviewing H. Analysis of Skeletal Remains 29
and protecting witnesses 15
6. International technical assistance 16
7. Telecommunications and other
digital evidence 17
8. Financial issues 17
9. Chronology of events 17
 V. VI.

Detailed Guidelines 30 Glossary 52
A. Detailed Guidelines on Crime-Scene
Investigation 30 VII.
1. Introduction 30 Annexes 57
2. Photographic documentation 31 Annex 1. Anatomical Sketches 57
3. Measurements 32 Annex 2. Case Details Form 82
4. Note-taking/data collection Annex 3. Firearm Wound Chart 84
and compiling an inventory 32
Annex 4. Stab Wound/Laceration Chart 85
B. Detailed Guidelines on Interviews 33
Annex 5. Adult Dental Chart 86
1. Introduction 33
2. Preparation and setting 33
3. Starting the interview 33 List of Tables
4. Fact-finding 34 Table 1:
5. Concluding the interview 35 Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem Data
for the Purpose of Identification 23
6. Additional guidance when interviewing
a suspect 35 Table 2:
Torture Techniques and Related Findings 47
7. The role of interpreters 35
C. Detailed Guidelines on the Excavation
of Graves 36
D. Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy 38
1. Background and key principles 38
2. The clothed body 39
3. External examination 39
4. Internal examination 42
5. Further testing 43
6. Concluding the cause of death 45
7. The autopsy report 46
8. Autopsy signs of possible torture 46
E. Detailed Guidelines on the Analysis
of Skeletal Remains 49
1. Introduction 49
2. Infrastructure for the analysis of
skeletal remains 49
3. Preparing skeletal remains for analysis 49
4. Establishing a biological profile
of the remains 50
5. Remaining analysis and report 51

2016 Minnesota Protocol
I. Aims and Scope of the
Aims and Scope of the 2016
Minnesota Protocol
1. The Minnesota Protocol aims to protect the right (b) The death occurred when a person
to life and advance justice, accountability and was detained by, or was in the
the right to a remedy, by promoting the effective custody of, the State, its organs,
investigation of potentially unlawful death or or agents. This includes, for example, all
suspected enforced disappearance. The Protocol deaths of persons detained in prisons, in other
sets a common standard of performance in places of detention (official and otherwise)
investigating potentially unlawful death or and in other facilities where the State exercises
suspected enforced disappearance and a shared heightened control over their life.3
set of principles and guidelines for States, as well (c) The death occurred where the
as for institutions and individuals who play a role State may have failed to meet its
in the investigation. obligations to protect life. This includes,
2. The Minnesota Protocol applies to the for example, any situation where a state
investigation of all “potentially unlawful death” fails to exercise due diligence to protect an
and, mutatis mutandis, suspected enforced individual or individuals from foreseeable
disappearance. For the purpose of the Protocol, external threats or violence by non-State
this primarily includes situations where: actors.4
There is also a general duty on the state to
(a) The death may have been caused investigate any suspicious death, even where
by acts or omissions of the State, its it is not alleged or suspected that the state
organs or agents, or may otherwise caused the death or unlawfully failed to
be attributable to the State, in prevent it.
violation of its duty to respect the
right to life.1 This includes, for example, all
deaths possibly caused by law enforcement
personnel or other agents of the state; deaths
caused by paramilitary groups, militias or
“death squads” suspected of acting under
the direction or with the permission or
acquiescence of the State; and deaths caused
by private military or security forces exercising
State functions.2

See, e.g. Art. 6(1), 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Art. 6, 1980 Convention on the Rights of the Child; and Art. 1, 1948
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; Arts. 12 and 13, 1984 UN Convention against Torture; Art. 10, 2006 International
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPED); UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement
Officials, Principles 6, 22 and 23; UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, Principle
9; and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 34. In situations of international armed
conflict, see Art. 121, 1949 Geneva Convention III (with respect to prisoners of war); and Art. 131, 1949 Geneva Convention IV (with respect to civilian
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to the UN Commission on Human Rights, UN doc. E/CN.4/2005/7, 22
December 2004, paras. 70–71.
These include psychiatric hospitals, institutions for children and the elderly and centres for migrants, stateless people, or refugees.
See, e.g., Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31 on The Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant,
UN doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13, 26 May 2004, para. 8.

3. The Protocol outlines States’ legal obligations 5. The Protocol is also relevant to cases where
and common standards and guidelines relating the United Nations, armed non-State groups
to the investigation of potentially unlawful death exercising State or quasi-State authority,5 or
(Section II). It sets out the duty of any individual business entities6 have a responsibility to respect
involved in an investigation to observe the highest the right to life and to remedy any abuses they
standards of professional ethics (Section III). cause or to which they contribute.7 The Protocol
It provides guidance and describes good can also guide the monitoring of investigations by
practices applicable to those involved in the the UN, regional organizations and institutions,
investigative process, including police and other civil society and victims’ families, and can aid
investigators, medical and legal professionals teaching and training on death investigations.
and members of fact-finding mechanisms and
procedures (Section IV). While the Protocol is 6. States Parties to relevant treaties may have
neither a comprehensive manual of all aspects of specific obligations that go beyond the guidance
investigations, nor a step-by-step handbook for set out in the present Protocol. Although some
practitioners, it does contain detailed guidelines States may not yet be in a position to follow all
on key aspects of the investigation (Section V). of the guidance set out within it, nothing in the
A glossary is included (Section VI). Annexes Protocol should be interpreted in such a way as to
(Section VII) contain anatomical sketches and relieve or excuse any State from full compliance
forms for use during autopsies. with its obligations under international human
rights law.
4. States should take all appropriate steps to
incorporate Protocol standards into their domestic
legal systems and to promote its use by relevant
departments and personnel, including, but not
limited to, prosecutors, defence lawyers, judges,
law enforcement, prison and military personnel,
and forensic and health professionals.

With respect to armed groups, see Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, UN doc. A/HRC/12/48, 25 September 2009,
para. 1836.
OHCHR, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, UN doc. HR/PUB/11/04 (2011).
2005 UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and
Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (hereafter, UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation).

2 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)

II. International Legal Framework
International Legal Framework
A. The Right to Life
7. The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life is right to life and not deprive any person of their
a foundational and universally recognized right, life arbitrarily.
applicable at all times and in all circumstances. (b) Protect and fulfil the right to life.
No derogation is permissible, including during an States must protect and fulfil the right to life,
armed conflict or other public emergency.8 The including by exercising due diligence to
right to life is a norm of jus cogens and is protected prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life by
by international and regional treaties, customary private actors. This is particularly the case
international law and domestic legal systems. The where state officials have specific information
right is recognized in, among other instruments, the about threats against one or more identified
1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the individuals; or where there is a pattern of
1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political killings where victims are linked by political
Rights, the African, Inter-American and European affiliation,11 sex,12 sexual orientation13 or
human rights conventions,9 and the Arab Charter gender identity,14 religion,15 race or ethnicity,16
on Human Rights.10 caste,17 or social status.18 States must
8. Protection of the right to life means preventing implement their due diligence obligations
the arbitrary deprivation of life, including through in good faith and in a non-discriminatory
an appropriate framework of laws, regulations, manner. States must, for example, exercise due
precautions and procedures. It also requires diligence to prevent the unlawful use of lethal
accountability for the arbitrary deprivation of life force or violence against children19 or women
whenever it occurs. To secure the right to life, by private actors,20 and must protect against
States must: similar abuses by corporations.21 States must
protect the life of each person under their
(a) Respect the right to life. States, their jurisdiction by law. States must also take
organs and agents, and those whose conduct reasonable measures to address conditions
is attributable to the State, must respect the that may give rise to direct threats to life.22

Under Article 15 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, States
Parties may derogate from full observance of the right to life (Article 2) for lawful acts of war only and to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the
situation, provided that any measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law.
Art. 6, ICCPR; Art. 2, ECHR; Art. 4, 1969 American Convention on Human Rights; and Art. 4, 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Art. 5, 2004 Arab Charter on Human Rights.
Human Rights Committee, Krasovskaya v. Belarus, Views (Comm. No. 1820/2008), 6 June 2012.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), González and others (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico, 16 November 2009, para. 455; Report of the Special
Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, UN doc. A/HRC/23/49, 14 May 2013, para. 73.
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Resolution 275 on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the
basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, adopted at 55th Ordinary Session, Luanda, 28 April to 12 May 2014.
“Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity”, Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, UN doc. A/HRC/29/23, 4 May 2015; see also “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their
sexual orientation and gender identity”, Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 17 November 2011.
See, e.g., Urgent appeal to the Government of Pakistan sent by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on minority
issues and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, UN doc. A/HRC/28/85, 23 October 2014, p. 104 (concerning the
murder of two members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan).
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Nachova v. Bulgaria, Judgment, 6 July 2005, paras. 162–68; see also B.S. v. Spain, Judgment, 24 July 2012,
paras. 58–59 and X v. Turkey, Judgment, 9 October 2012, para. 62.
See, e.g., Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns on his mission to India in 2012, UN doc. A/
HRC/29/37/Add.3, 6 May 2015, para. 47.
See, e.g., Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to the Human Rights Council, UN doc. A/HRC/11/2, 27 May
2009, paras. 43–59, which concerns the killing of alleged “witches”. On “social cleansing” (killings of gang members, criminal suspects and other “undesir-
ables”), see Report on Mission to Guatemala, UN doc. A/HRC/4/20/Add.2, 19 February 2007; as regards effective investigation into the killing of “street
children” see IACtHR, Villagrán-Morales and others v. Guatemala, Judgment, 19 November 1999.
See, e.g., “Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children”, UN doc. A/61/299, 29 August 2006, §§91, 93,
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 48/104, 20 December 1993, Art. 4(c).
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Principle 1.
See, e.g., ECtHR, Öneryildiz v. Turkey, Judgment (Grand Chamber), 30 November 2004.

(c) Investigate potentially unlawful of limitations or blanket amnesties (de jure
death, ensure accountability impunity), or from prosecutorial inaction or
and remedy violations. The duty to political interference (de facto impunity), is
investigate is an essential part of upholding incompatible with this duty.25 A failure to
the right to life.23 The duty gives practical respect the duty to investigate is a breach of
effect to the duties to respect and protect the the right to life. Investigations and prosecutions
right to life, and promotes accountability are essential to deter future violations and to
and remedy where the substantive right may promote accountability, justice, the rights to
have been violated. Where an investigation remedy and to the truth, and the rule of law.26
reveals evidence that a death was caused 9. Depending on the circumstances, States also have
unlawfully, the State must ensure that a duty to cooperate internationally in investigations
identified perpetrators are prosecuted and, of potentially unlawful death, in particular when
where appropriate, punished through a it concerns an alleged international crime such as
judicial process.24 Impunity stemming from, extrajudicial execution.27
for example, unreasonably short statutes

B. Accountability and Remedy
10. Persons whose rights have been violated have 11. Family members have the right to seek and obtain
the right to a full and effective remedy.28 Family information on the causes of a killing and to
members of victims of unlawful death have the learn the truth about the circumstances, events
right to equal and effective access to justice; to and causes that led to it.33 In cases of potentially
adequate, effective and prompt reparation;29 to unlawful death, families have the right, at a
recognition of their status before the law;30 and to minimum, to information about the circumstances,
have access to relevant information concerning the location and condition of the remains and, insofar
violations and relevant accountability mechanisms. as it has been determined, the cause and manner
Full reparation includes restitution, compensation, of death.
rehabilitation, guarantees of non-repetition, and
satisfaction.31 Satisfaction includes government 12. In potential cases of enforced disappearance,
verification of the facts and public disclosure of under the International Convention for the
the truth, an accurate accounting for of the legal Protection of All Persons from Enforced
violations, sanctions against those responsible for Disappearance families have the right, at a
the violations, and the search for the disappeared minimum, to information about the authorities
and for the bodies of those killed.32 responsible for the disappearance and
deprivation of liberty, the dates and place of the
disappearance, and any transfers, and the victim’s

See, e.g., ECtHR, McCann and others v. United Kingdom, Judgment (Grand Chamber), 27 September 1995, para. 161; IACtHR, Montero-Aranguren and
others (Detention Center of Catia) v. Venezuela, Judgment, 5 July 2006, para. 66; African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), General
Comment No. 3 on the Right to Life, November 2015, paras. 2, 15; Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31, paras. 15 and 18.
UN Commission on Human Rights, Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, UN doc. E/
CN.4/2005/102/Add.1, 8 February 2005, Principle 1.
See, e.g., Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31, para. 18.
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to the General Assembly, UN doc. A/70/304; Preamble to the UN
Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation.
See, e.g., IACtHR, La Cantuta v. Peru, Judgment, 29 November 2006, para. 160.
See UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation; Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights
through Action to Combat Impunity, Principle 4; Art. 2(3), ICCPR.
Reparation includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, guarantees of non-repetition, and satisfaction. See, e.g., Working group on Enforced or Involun-
tary Disappearances (WGEID), General Comment on Article 19 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, UN doc.
E/CN.4/1998/43, paras. 68–75; and Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, UN doc. A/HRC/22/45, 28 January
2013, paras. 46–68.
Art. 24(6) ICPED obliges States Parties to adopt adequate measures (for example, issuing certificates of absence due to enforced disappearance) to regulate
the legal status of a disappeared person and his/her relatives in fields such as social welfare, family law and property rights. See WGEID, General com-
ment on the right to recognition as a person before the law in the context of enforced disappearances, General Comment No. 11, 2011, in UN doc. A/
HRC/19/58/Rev.1 (2012), para. 42.
See, e.g., Human Righ ts Committee, General Comment No. 31, op. cit., paras. 15–17 and 19; Art. 24, ICPED; and Committee on Enforced Disappear-
ance, Yrusta v. Argentina, Views (Comm. No. 1/2013), April 2016.
See UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation, para. 22.
See, e.g., UN General Assembly Resolution 68/165, adopted on 18 December 2013; ICPED Arts. 12 and 24(2); WGEID, General Comment on the right
to the truth in relation to enforced disappearance, General Comment No. 10, in Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, UN
doc. A/HRC/16/48, 26 January 2011, para. 39. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Report on the Demobilization Process in Colombia,
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.120, Doc. 60, December 13, 2004, para. 18, citing, inter alia, IACHR, Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1985-86, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.68, Doc. 8 rev. 1, 26 September 1986, chap. V.

4 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
whereabouts.34 Determining the final whereabouts 14. In armed conflict, all parties must take all feasible
of the disappeared person is fundamental to measures to account for persons reported missing
easing the anguish and suffering of family as a result of the conflict, and to provide family
members caused by the uncertainty as to the members with any information they have on the
fate of their disappeared relative.35 A violation is fate of their relatives.40 In the event of death,
ongoing as long as the fate or whereabouts of the all parties must use all means at their disposal
disappeared is not determined.36 to identify the dead, including by recording all
available information prior to the disposal of the
13. The right to know the truth37 extends to society as body and by marking the location of graves; and
a whole, given the public interest in the prevention in a situation of international armed conflict they
of, and accountability for, international law must at least endeavour to facilitate the return of
violations.38 Family members and society as a the remains of the deceased at the request of,
whole both have a right to information held in a inter alia, the next of kin.41 Moreover, each Party
state’s records that pertains to serious violations, to an international armed conflict has to establish
even if those records are held by security agencies an information bureau to forward any information
or military or police units.39 regarding, among other things, the death of
protected persons in its hands to the power to
which these persons belong.42

C. The Triggering and Scope of the Duty to Investigate
15. A State’s duty to investigate is triggered where it was unlawful. The duty to investigate potentially
knows or should have known of any potentially unlawful death caused during the conduct of
unlawful death, including where reasonable hostilities is specifically addressed in Paragraph
allegations of a potentially unlawful death are 21.
made.43 The duty to investigate does not apply
only where the State is in receipt of a formal 17. Where a State agent has caused the death of a
complaint.44 detainee, or where a person has died in custody,
this must be reported, without delay, to a judicial
16. The duty to investigate any potentially unlawful or other competent authority that is independent of
death includes all cases where the State has the detaining authority and mandated to conduct
caused a death or where it is alleged or prompt, impartial and effective investigations into
suspected that the State caused a death (for the circumstances and causes of such a death.45
example, where law enforcement officers used This responsibility extends to persons detained
force that may have contributed to the death). This in prisons, in other places of detention (official
duty, which applies to all peacetime situations or otherwise) and to persons in other facilities
and to all cases during an armed conflict outside where the State exercises heightened control over
the conduct of hostilities, exists regardless of their life. Owing to the control exercised by the
whether it is suspected or alleged that the death State over those it holds in custody, there is a

Under the ICPED, a victim is not only the person who is subjected to enforced disappearance but “any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result” of
the crime (ICPED, Art. 24). As a consequence, the family and the community to which the disappeared person belonged can all be regarded as victims under
the Convention. See also ICPED, Art. 12.
35. IACHR, Report on the Right to Truth in the Americas, August 2014; see also WGEID, General Comment on the right to the truth in relation to enforced
disappearance, para. 4.
ICPED, Arts. 18 and 24(6); and General Comment on enforced disappearance as a continuous crime, General Comment No. 9, in Report of the Working
Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, UN doc. A/HRC/16/48, 26 January 2011, para. 39. Under Art. 24(1), for the purposes of the ICPED,
“‘victim’ means the disappeared person and any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of an enforced disappearance.
See, e.g., Art. 2, ICCPR and Art. 24, ICPED. See also Principles 2–5, Updated Set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through
action to combat impunity, UN doc. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1; and see also UN docs. E/CN.4/2004/88 and E/CN.4/2006/91.
See, e.g., IACtHR, Slaughter of the Rochela v. Colombia, Judgment, 11 May 2007, para. 195; IACtHR, Bámaca Velásquez v. Guatemala, Judgment,
25 November 2000, para. 197.
Tshwane Principles on National Security and the Right to Information, 2013, Principle 10.
1977 Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (1977 Additional Protocol I),
Arts. 32, 33; International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary IHL Study, Rule 117.
ICRC, Customary IHL Study, Rules 116 and 114; 1949 Geneva Convention I, Arts. 16, 17; 1949 Geneva Convention II, Arts. 19, 20; 1949 Geneva
Convention III, Art. 120; 1949 Geneva Convention IV, Arts. 129, 130; and 1977 Additional Protocol I, Art. 34.
1949 Geneva Convention I, Art. 16; 1949 Geneva Convention II, Art. 19; 1949 Geneva Convention III, Arts. 120, 122; 1949 Geneva Convention IV,
Art. 136. Where relevant, this duty applies, mutatis mutandis, to enforced disappearance.
ECtHR, Ergi v. Turkey, Judgment, 28 July 1998, para. 82; Isayeva, Yusopva and Bazayeva v. Russia, Judgment, 24 February 2005, paras. 208–09; IACtHR,
Montero-Aranguren and others v. Venezuela, Judgment, 5 July 2006, para. 79.
See the Nelson Mandela Rules, Rule 71(1).
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, UN doc. A/61/311, 5 September, 2006, paras. 49–54.

general presumption of state responsibility in such 20. The duty to investigate a potentially unlawful
cases.46 Without prejudice to the obligations of death – promptly, effectively and thoroughly, with
the State, the same presumption of responsibility independence, impartiality and transparency –
will apply to the authorities managing private applies generally during peacetime, situations of
prisons. Particular circumstances in which the State internal disturbances and tensions, and armed
will be held responsible for the death, unless it is conflict. In the context of armed conflict, the
proven to the contrary, include, for example, cases general principles set out in Paragraphs 15–19
where the person suffered injury while in custody and 22–33 must, however, be considered in
or where the deceased was, prior to his or her light of both the circumstances and the underlying
death, a political opponent of the government principles governing international humanitarian
or a human rights defender; was known to be law (IHL). Certain situations, such as armed
suffering from mental health issues; or committed conflict, may pose practical challenges for the
suicide in unexplained circumstances. In any application of some aspects of the Protocol’s
event, the State is under the obligation to provide guidance.50 This is particularly the case with
all relevant documentation to the family of the regard to the obligation on a State, as opposed
deceased, including the death certificate, medical to another actor, to investigate deaths linked to
report and reports on the investigation held into armed conflict when they occur on territory the
the circumstances surrounding the death.47 State does not control. Where context-specific
constraints prevent compliance with any part of
18. Consonant with its responsibilities under the guidance in this Protocol, the constraints and
international law, the State also has a duty to reasons for non-compliance should be recorded
investigate all potentially unlawful death caused and publicly explained.
by individuals, even if the State cannot be held
responsible for failing to prevent such deaths.48 21. Where, during the conduct of hostilities, it appears
that casualties have resulted from an attack, a
19. The duty to investigate applies wherever the State post-operation assessment should be conducted to
has a duty to respect, protect and/or fulfil the establish the facts, including the accuracy of the
right to life, and in relation to any alleged victims targeting.51 Where there are reasonable grounds
or perpetrators within the territory of a state or to suspect that a war crime was committed,
otherwise subject to a state’s jurisdiction.49 Each the State must conduct a full investigation and
State should ensure that an appropriate avenue prosecute those who are responsible.52 Where
is available for allegations of potentially unlawful any death is suspected or alleged to have resulted
death to be made and for relevant information from a violation of IHL that would not amount
to be provided. Where the duty to investigate to a war crime, and where an investigation
applies, it applies to all States that may have (“official inquiry”) into the death is not specifically
contributed to the death or which may have failed required under IHL, at a minimum further inquiry
to protect the right to life. is necessary. In any event, where evidence of
unlawful conduct is identified, a full investigation
should be conducted.

Human Rights Committee, Barbato v. Uruguay, Views (Comm. No. 84/1981), UN doc. CCPR/C/OP/2 at 112 (1990), para. 9.2.
ECtHR, Opuz v. Turkey, Judgment, 9 June 2009, para. 150.
See, e.g., Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31, op. cit., para. 10; ACHPR, General Comment No. 3 on the Right to Life, November 2015.
See also ECtHR, Hassan v. UK, Judgment (Grand Chamber), 16 September 2014, para. 78.
See, e.g., ECtHR, Jaloud v. The Netherlands, Judgment (Grand Chamber), 20 November 2014, para. 164: “It is clear that where the death to be investigated
occurs in circumstances of generalised violence, armed conflict or insurgency, obstacles may be placed in the way of investigators… Nonetheless, even in
difficult security conditions, all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that an effective, independent investigation is conducted into alleged breaches of the
right to life.”
See The Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010, Second Report: Turkel Commission, “Israel’s mechanisms for examining and
investigating complaints and claims of violations of the laws of armed conflict according to international law”, February 2013 (hereafter, Turkel II), paras. 48–50,
pp. 102–03.
See ibid.
For a discussion of the duty to investigate violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) see ICRC Customary IHL Study, Rule 158 (Prosecution of War
Crimes): “States must investigate war crimes allegedly committed by their nationals or armed forces, or on their territory… They must also investigate other war
crimes over which they have jurisdiction and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.” In the case of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, the exercise of
universal jurisdiction is mandatory. See the 1949 Geneva Conventions: Geneva I, Art. 49; Geneva II, Art. 50; Geneva III, Art. 129; Geneva IV, Art. 146; the
1977 Additional Protocol I, Art. 85; and see also the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations
of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, UN General Assembly Resolution 60/147, 21 March 2006;
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, UN doc. A/68/382 13 September 2013, para. 101. See also,
e.g., Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism, UN doc.
A/68/389, 18 September 2013, para. 42.

6 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
D. Elements and Principles of Investigations
1. Elements of the duty to investigate (b) Recover and preserve all material probative
of the cause of death, the identity of
22. International law requires that investigations
the perpetrator(s) and the circumstances
be: (i) prompt; (ii) effective and thorough; (iii)
surrounding the death59
independent and impartial; and (iv) transparent.53
(c) Identify possible witnesses and obtain their
i. Prompt evidence in relation to the death and the
circumstances surrounding the death
23. The rights to life and to an effective remedy
are violated when investigations into potentially (d) Determine the cause, manner, place and
unlawful death are not conducted promptly.54 time of death, and all of the surrounding
Authorities must conduct an investigation as soon circumstances. In determining the manner of
as possible and proceed without unreasonable death, the investigation should distinguish
delays.55 Officials with knowledge of a potentially between natural death, accidental death,
unlawful death must report it to their superiors or suicide and homicide;60 and
proper authorities without delay.56 The duty of (e) Determine who was involved in the death and
promptness does not justify a rushed or unduly their individual responsibility for the death.
hurried investigation.57 The failure of the State
It will almost always be the case that these aims
promptly to investigate does not relieve it of its
will be materially assisted in some way by the
duty to investigate at a later time: the duty does
performance of an autopsy. A decision not to
not cease even with the passing of significant
undertake an autopsy should be justified in
writing and should be subject to judicial review.
In the case of an enforced disappearance, an
ii. Effective and thorough
investigation must seek to determine the fate of
24. Investigations of any potentially unlawful death the disappeared and, if applicable, the location
or enforced disappearance must be effective of their remains.61
and thorough. Investigators should, to the extent
26. The investigation must determine whether or
possible, collect and confirm (for example by
not there was a breach of the right to life.
triangulation) all testimonial, documentary and
Investigations must seek to identify not only
physical evidence. Investigations must be capable
direct perpetrators but also all others who were
of: ensuring accountability for unlawful death;
responsible for the death, including, for example,
leading to the identification and, if justified
officials in the chain of command who were
by the evidence and seriousness of the case,
complicit in the death. The investigation should
the prosecution and punishment of all those
seek to identify any failure to take reasonable
responsible;58 and preventing future unlawful
measures which could have had a real prospect
of preventing the death. It should also seek to
25. Investigations must, at a minimum, take all identify policies and systemic failures that may
reasonable steps to: have contributed to a death, and identify patterns
where they exist.62
(a) Identify the victim(s)

See Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31, op. cit., para. 15; UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, para. 1814; see also UN Basic
Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Principles 22 and 23; IACtHR, Gómez Palomino v. Peru, Judgment, 22 November
2005, para. 79 ff; and Landaeta Mejías Brothers and others v. Venezuela, Judgment, 27 August 2014, para. 254; ACHPR, Amnesty International and others
v. Sudan, 15 November 1999, para. 51; ACHPR, General Comment No. 3 on the Right to Life, para. 7; ICPED, Art. 12(1).
IACtHR, Garibaldi v. Brazil, Judgment, 23 September 2009, para. 39. For the requirement during armed conflict, see, e.g., Report of the detailed findings of
the independent commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-21/1, UN doc. A/HRC/29/CRP.4, 24 June 2015, para.
625; Turkel II, Recommendation 10, para. 66, p. 399.
Turkel II, paras. 37, 63–66; pp. 385, 397–99.
IACtHR, Anzualdo Castro v. Peru, Judgment, 22 September 2009, para. 134.
ECtHR, Pomilyayko v. Ukraine, Judgment, 11 February 2016, para. 53.
Human Rights Committee, José Antonio Coronel and others v. Colombia, Views (Comm. No. 778/1997), 24 October 2002; Sathasivam v. Sri Lanka, Views
(Comm. No. 1436/2005), 8 July 2008; and Abubakar Amirov and others v. Russia, Views (Comm. No. 1447/2006), 2 April 2009. Working Group on
Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, General Comment on the Right to the Truth in Relation to Enforced Disappearances, para. 5.
This should include telephone logs or reports, as well as digital evidence contained on mobile telephones, computers, cameras and other electronic devices.
IACtHR, Véliz Franco and others v. Guatemala, 2011, para. 191.
See ICPED, Art. 24(2) and (3).
For example, in order to establish the element of “widespread or systematic”, evidence of the same chronology of events in different towns could be valuable
(e.g. the arming of certain groups within the area, the arrival of paramilitaries into an area shortly before mass killings, communication and interaction between
military and paramilitary groups, action by the military in support of paramilitary groups (e.g. shelling in advance of ground movement by paramilitaries),
the establishment of detention facilities as part of a take-over plan, transfer of prisoners in an organized way between detention facilities in different towns,
advanced preparation of mass graves, or templated paperwork used for the arrest, detention and transfer of prisoners).

27. An investigation must be carried out diligently 30. Investigators must be able to perform all of
and in accordance with good practice.63 The their professional functions without intimidation,
investigative mechanism charged with conducting hindrance, harassment or improper interference,
the investigation must be adequately empowered and must be able to operate free from the threat
to do so. The mechanism must, at a minimum, of prosecution or other sanctions for any action
have the legal power to compel witnesses and taken in accordance with recognized professional
require the production of evidence,64 and must duties, standards and ethics. This applies equally
have sufficient financial and human resources, to lawyers, whatever their relationship to the
including qualified investigators and relevant investigation.66
experts.65 Any investigative mechanism must
also be able to ensure the safety and security of 31. Investigators must be impartial and must act at all
witnesses, including, where necessary, through an times without bias. They must analyse all evidence
effective witness protection programme. objectively. They must consider and appropriately
pursue exculpatory as well as inculpatory
iii. Independent and impartial evidence.
28. Investigators and investigative mechanisms must iv. Transparent
be, and must be seen to be, independent of
undue influence. They must be independent 32. Investigative processes and outcomes must be
institutionally and formally, as well as in practice transparent, including through openness to the
and perception, at all stages. Investigations must scrutiny of the general public67 and of victims’
be independent of any suspected perpetrators and families. Transparency promotes the rule of
the units, institutions or agencies to which they law and public accountability, and enables
belong. Investigations of law enforcement killings, the efficacy of investigations to be monitored
for example, must be capable of being carried externally. It also enables the victims, defined
out free from undue influence that may arise from broadly, to take part in the investigation.68 States
institutional hierarchies and chains of command. should adopt explicit policies regarding the
Inquiries into serious human rights violations, transparency of investigations. States should, at
such as extrajudicial executions and torture, must a minimum, be transparent about the existence of
be conducted under the jurisdiction of ordinary an investigation, the procedures to be followed in
civilian courts. Investigations must also be free an investigation, and an investigation’s findings,
from undue external influence, such as the interests including their factual and legal basis.
of political parties or powerful social groups.
33. Any limitations on transparency must be strictly
29. Independence requires more than not acting on necessary for a legitimate purpose, such as
the instructions of an actor seeking to influence protecting the privacy and safety of affected
an investigation inappropriately. It means that the individuals,69 ensuring the integrity of ongoing
investigation’s decisions shall not be unduly altered investigations, or securing sensitive information
by the presumed or known wishes of any party. about intelligence sources or military or police
operations. In no circumstances may a state restrict
transparency in a way that would conceal the
fate or whereabouts of any victim of an enforced
disappearance or unlawful killing, or would result
in impunity for those responsible.

See, e.g., Human Rights Committee, Abubakar Amirov and others v. Russia, paras. 11.4 ff.; IACtHR, Rodríguez Vera and others (The Disappeared from the
Palace of Justice) v. Colombia, Judgment, 14 November 2014, para. 489.
ECtHR, Paul and Audrey Edwards v. UK, Judgment, 14 March 2002.
IACtHR, “Mapiripán Massacre” v. Colombia, Judgment, 15 September 2005, para. 224.
UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Principles 16 and 17.
A victim’s immediate family “must be involved in the procedure to the extent necessary to safeguard his or her legitimate interests”. UN Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Interim Report, UN doc. A/65/321, 23 August 2010; ECtHR, Hugh Jordan v. UK, Judgment, 4 May 2001,
para. 109. See also ACHPR, General Comment No. 3 on the Right to Life, para. 7.
See ICPED, Arts. 12 and 24.
Under Art. 137 of 1949 Geneva Convention IV, information concerning a protected person, including about his/her death, may be withheld by the Informa-
tion Bureau if transmission is “detrimental” to the relatives.

8 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
2. Relevant international principles and codes to ensure that the family members are able to
participate effectively, the authorities should
34. Investigators and law enforcement officials provide funding for a lawyer to represent them. In
should have regard for all relevant international the case of a child (and where there are no other
standards, principles and codes. These include, in relatives), a trusted adult or guardian (who may
addition to the Principles and Protocol, the 1985 not be related to the deceased or disappeared
UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the person) may represent the interests of the child. In
Judiciary,70 the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the certain circumstances – for example, where family
Role of Lawyers,71 the 1990 UN Guidelines on members are suspected perpetrators – these rights
the Role of Prosecutors,72 as well as the 1979 may be subject to restrictions, but only where,
UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement and to the extent, strictly necessary to ensure the
Officials73 and the 1990 Basic Principles on the integrity of the investigation.
Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement
Officials.74 Investigators should also be guided 36. Family members should be protected from any
by the Siracusa Guidelines,75 the Lund-London ill-treatment, intimidation or sanction as a result
Guidelines,76 the OHCHR’s Commission of Inquiry of their participation in an investigation or their
Guidance,77 and the 2015 “Nelson Mandela search for information concerning a deceased
Rules”.78 or disappeared person. Appropriate measures
should be taken to ensure their safety, physical
3. The participation and protection of family and psychological well-being, and privacy.
members during an investigation
35. The participation of the family members79 or other 37. Family members have specific rights in relation to
close relatives of a deceased or disappeared human remains. When the identity of a deceased
person is an important element of an effective person has been determined, family members
investigation.80 The State must enable all should be informed immediately and thereafter a
close relatives to participate effectively in the notification of death posted in an easily accessible
investigation, though without compromising its way. To the extent possible, family members
integrity. The relatives of a deceased person must should also be consulted prior to an autopsy.
be sought, and informed of the investigation. They should be entitled to have a representative
Family members should be granted legal standing, present during the autopsy. Upon completion of
and the investigative mechanisms or authorities the necessary investigative procedures, human
should keep them informed of the progress of the remains should be returned to family members,
investigation, during all its phases, in a timely allowing them to dispose of the deceased
manner.81 Family members must be enabled by according to their beliefs.
the investigating authorities to make suggestions
and arguments as to what investigative steps are
necessary, provide evidence, and assert their
interests and rights throughout the process.82 They
should be informed of, and have access to, any
hearing relevant to the investigation, and they
should be provided with information relevant to
the investigation in advance. Where necessary

Adopted by the Seventh UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held at Milan from 26 August to 6 September 1985 and
endorsed by General Assembly Resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985.
Adopted by the Seventh UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders and endorsed by General Assembly Resolutions 40/32 of
29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985.
Adopted by the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990.
Adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979.
Adopted by the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990.
Siracusa Guidelines for International, Regional and National Fact-Finding Bodies, adopted by the International Institute in Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences,
Siracusa, Italy, 2013.
The International Human Rights Fact-Finding Guidelines (The Lund-London Guidelines) were produced by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights
Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in 2009 and revised in 2015.
OHCHR, Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Guidance and Practice, 2015.
UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”), adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 70/175 of
17 December 2015.
The term “family” in this Protocol should be understood broadly as applying to the relatives of the deceased.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr. Pablo de Greiff, UN doc.
A/HRC/21/46, 9 August 2012, para. 54.
See, e.g., IACtHR, Villagrán-Morales and others v. Guatemala, Judgment, 19 November 1999, paras. 225, 227, 229.
UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, Principle 16; IACHR, Manuel Stalin Bolaños v.
Ecuador, Report No. 10/95, Case 10.580, 12 September 1995, para. 45.

4. Investigative mechanisms 40. States must ensure that special mechanisms do
not undermine accountability by, for example,
38. The duty to investigate does not necessarily call unduly delaying or avoiding criminal prosecutions.
for one particular investigative mechanism in The effective conduct of a special investigative
preference to another. States may use a wide mechanism – designed, for example, to
range of mechanisms consistent with domestic investigate the systemic causes of rights violations
law and practice, provided those mechanisms or to secure historical memory – does not in itself
meet the international law requirements of satisfy a state’s obligation to prosecute and punish,
the duty to investigate. Whether a police through judicial processes, those responsible
investigation, a coronial inquest, an investigation for an unlawful death. Accordingly, while
by an independent police oversight body, an special mechanisms may play a valuable role in
investigation by a judge, special prosecutor or conducting investigations in certain circumstances,
national human rights institution, or any other they are unlikely on their own to fulfil the State’s
investigation, complies with the duty to investigate, duty to investigate. Fulfilment of that duty may
is a matter to be determined in the light of the require a combination of mechanisms.
international legal obligations and commitments
of the State. Whichever mechanisms are used,
however, they must, as a whole, meet the
minimum requirements set out in these Guidelines.

39. In specific circumstances a State may establish
a special mechanism such as a commission of
inquiry or another transitional justice mechanism.
An international investigation mechanism with the
expertise and capacity to conduct an independent
and objective investigation may be appropriate.
The requirements of promptness, effectiveness and
thoroughness, independence and impartiality,
and transparency apply equally to investigations
undertaken by these mechanisms.83

In designing such mechanisms, States should have regard to the principles relating to commissions of inquiry contained in the Set of Principles to Combat
Impunity, the OHCHR’s Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions Guidance and Practice and the Siracusa Guidelines for International, Regional and
National Fact-Finding Bodies.

10 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)

III. Professional Ethics
Professional Ethics
41. All those involved in investigating potentially 44. Any forensic doctor involved in the investigation
unlawful death must meet the highest professional of a potentially unlawful death has responsibilities
and ethical standards at all times. They must work to justice, to the relatives of the deceased, and
to secure the integrity and effectiveness of the more generally to the public. To discharge these
investigation process and to advance the goals responsibilities properly, forensic doctors, including
of justice and human rights. Those involved in forensic pathologists, must act independently and
investigations bear ethical responsibilities toward impartially. Whether or not they are employed
victims, their family members and others affected by the police or the State, forensic doctors must
by an investigation, and they must respect the understand clearly their obligations to justice (not
safety, privacy, well-being, dignity and human to the police or the State) and to the relatives of
rights of anyone affected, working in accordance the deceased, so that a true account is provided
with the applicable humanitarian principles, in of the cause of death and the circumstances
particular humanity and impartiality. surrounding the death.

42. When dealing with family members, potential 45. More generally, as stipulated by the International
witnesses and others contacted in the course of Code of Medical Ethics of the World Medical
an investigation, investigators must take care to Association (WMA), “A physician shall be
minimize the harm that the investigation process dedicated to providing competent medical service
may cause, especially regarding the physical in full professional and moral independence, with
and mental well-being of those involved in the compassion and respect for human dignity.”85
investigation and the dignity of the dead. Special For its full realization, this also requires the
consideration is required for those at particular risk State to create the circumstances in which such
of harm, such as victims of sexual abuse, children, independence can be exercised, including
the elderly, refugees, those with diverse gender by protecting the forensic doctor from harm
identities and expressions, and persons with or harassment as a result of involvement with
disabilities. potentially sensitive case work.

43. Investigators shall act in accordance with domestic
and international law and shall avoid arbitrary or
unduly intrusive investigatory activity. They should
endeavour to respect the culture and customs of all
persons affected by the investigation, as well as
the wishes of family members, while still fulfilling
their duty to conduct an effective investigation.84

International Consensus on Principles and Minimum Standards in Search Processes and Forensic Investigations in cases of Enforced Disappearances, Arbitrary
or Extrajudicial Executions, Annex 6 in International Commission of Jurists, Enforced Disappearance and Extrajudicial Execution: Investigation and Sanction,
A Practitioners Guide, 2015.
WMA, International Code of Medical Ethics, at:

IV. Conduct of an Investigation

Conduct of an Investigation
46. This Section of the Minnesota Protocol describes
the strategies and practical steps that should
be taken in an effective investigation of a
potentially unlawful death. These represent good
practice in any investigation notwithstanding
the specificities of local laws, practices and
procedures. The general guidance offered in this
Section is complemented by sections providing
detailed guidelines on, respectively, crime-scene
investigation, the conduct of interviews, the
excavation of graves, the conduct of an autopsy,
and the analysis of skeletal remains.

A. General Principles of Investigations
47. In any investigation, the preservation of life – the 49. An investigation may gather many different types
lives of both the public and the investigative of material, not all of which will be used as
team – is paramount. All activities should be risk evidence in a judicial proceeding. Nevertheless,
assessed, especially when being carried out in all materials and observations relevant to the
areas affected by conflict. Members of the public investigation should be secured, recorded
and the investigation team should not be unduly and logged. This includes all decisions taken,
placed in harm’s way. information gathered, and witness statements. The
source, date and time of collection of all material
48. The overarching strategy of any investigation must also be logged.
should be methodical and transparent, and all
legitimate lines of inquiry into potentially unlawful
death should be pursued. Depending on the
circumstances, both routine investigative steps and
highly specialized techniques may be required.
A hierarchy should be established that includes
accountability for all the decisions the investigation
team takes.

B. The Investigation Process
50. When a report or allegation of a potentially 51. A detailed analysis of information known
unlawful death is submitted or brought to the about the circumstances of the death and those
attention of the authorities, an initial investigation believed to be responsible should be provided
should be conducted to identify lines of inquiry in a written report. The report should include
and further actions. This includes identifying all the following key information: the identity and
sources of potential evidence and prioritizing the official status of the individual making the initial
collection and preservation of that evidence. All report; the circumstances under which the report
relevant witness statements should be collected, was made; the identity(ies) of the victim(s) (if
including but not limited to accounts of events known); the date(s), time(s) and location(s) of
provided by law enforcement personnel. Once a the death(s); the location(s) of the victim(s); the
significant body of evidence has been collected method(s) of causing the death(s); the individual(s)
and analysed, preliminary conclusions should be or organization(s) believed to be responsible;
developed and compiled into a single report. The the underlying reason(s) for the death(s); and
report should detail the lines of inquiry pursued other specific details. Areas in need of further
and the outcome of these inquiries, and should investigation should be identified. An overall
recommend further inquiries that may advance the strategy for locating and gathering further material
investigation. to support the investigation, and potential judicial
proceedings, should be developed. A plan should
be made for evidence collection.

12 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
52. A set of operational and tactical processes, 55. The gathering, recording and retaining of material
deriving from the overall strategy, should be – both inculpatory and exculpatory – requires
designed. These processes should seek to expertise to ensure that all relevant evidence
establish significant facts, preserve relevant can be disclosed in any judicial process. The
material and lead to the identification of all the relevance of material may only become apparent
parties involved. Activities should be planned as the investigation progresses. The investigation
and appropriate resources allocated in order to team must not, however, withhold information that
manage the following: could, for example, weaken the prosecution’s case
in any judicial proceedings.
nn The collection, analysis and management of
evidence, data and materials 2. Important physical locations, including the death/
nn The forensic examination of important physical crime scene
locations, including the death/crime scene 56. In the investigation of a potentially unlawful
nn Family liaison death there may or may not be a body in a
known location, which in turn may or may not
nn The development of a victim profile
be the place where the death occurred.87 Every
nn Finding, interviewing and protecting witnesses important physical location in the investigation
nn International technical assistance should be located and identified, including the
site of encounters between the victim(s) and any
nn Telecommunications and other digital evidence identified suspects, the location of any crimes,
nn Financial issues and possible burial sites. Global positioning
nn The chronology of events.86 system (GPS) coordinates should be taken and
recorded. The identity of the victim(s) will need to
53. The investigation strategies should be reviewed be established if this is not known. The lifestyle,
periodically or in light of new material (or new, routines and activities and the political, religious or
more robust methods). A record of the review economic background of the victim(s) may indicate
process should be kept, with all critical decisions possible reasons for the death. Missing person
noted and the evidence to support each one reports, family witness statements, dental and
clearly referenced. Any change of direction in other reliable physical records (i.e. so-called ante-
investigative strategy should be justified and mortem data), as well as fingerprints and DNA
recorded, with relevant material logged. The (deoxyribonucleic acid), can be used to assist in
review process should be open, recorded, and identifying the deceased.
disseminated to the investigation team members.
57. If DNA profiling is to be used for identifying
1. Collecting and managing data and materials human remains, other means of identification
54. Material should be collected in a systematic should be used in parallel. The sample used
manner. An effective information management to generate the profile and the profile itself are
system is required to ensure that all material powerful repositories of information that must be
gathered is recorded, analysed and stored safeguarded against misuse.88 In profiling DNA
appropriately, taking into account security to establish the probability of kinship as part of
concerns. This system does not need to be identifying the deceased, mistaken beliefs about
complex or technologically advanced, but it kinship may be discovered. Dealing properly
should be comprehensive, consistent and secure in with such incidental findings is an ethical issue of
order to ensure that no material is lost, damaged, great importance, and policies on this should be
degraded or overlooked; that provides an audit established in advance.89
trail that can demonstrate that evidence has not
been tampered with; and that it can be easily
found, referenced and cross-referenced.

For more detail on these areas, see e.g. documentation by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime ( and Interpol (
If investigators are unable to locate a body or remains they should continue to gather other direct and circumstantial evidence which may suffice for identifying
the perpetrator(s).
See, e.g., ICRC, Missing People, DNA Analysis and Identification of Human Remains: A Guide to Best Practice in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of
Armed Violence, 2nd ed., 2009.
See, e.g., L.S. Parker, A.J. London, J.D. Aronson, “Incidental findings in the use of DNA to identify human remains: An ethical assessment”, Forensic Science
International: Genetics, Vol. 7 (2013), pp. 221–29.

58. A crime scene is any physical scene where 61. All material located at a crime scene should be
investigators may locate, record and recover considered potentially relevant to the investigation.
physical evidence. The term “crime scene” is Material that may be found at a crime scene
used without prejudice to the determination of includes, but is not limited to, the following:
whether a crime has actually occurred.90 A crime
scene may be a place where a person’s body or (a) Documentary evidence, such as maps,
skeletal remains are found, as well as any relevant photographs, staffing records, interrogation
building, vehicle or place in the environment, records, administrative records, financial
including individual items within that environment papers, currency receipts, identity documents,
such as clothing, a weapon or personal effects. phone records, letters of correspondence, and
59. A crime scene should be secured at the earliest (b) Physical evidence, such as tools, weapons,
possible opportunity and unauthorized personnel fragments of clothing and fibres, keys,
shall not be permitted entry. This enables evidence paint, glass used in an attack, ligatures, and
at the scene to be protected and gathered jewellery
effectively and minimizes the contamination or
loss of relevant material. Securing the scene (c) Biological evidence, such as blood, hair,
requires controlling the entrance and egress of sexual fluids, urine, fingernails, body parts,
individuals and, where possible, restricting access bones, teeth and fingerprints
to trained personnel only. Even in medico-legal (d) Digital evidence, such as mobile phones,
systems that do not require forensic doctors to computers, tablets, satellite phones, digital
visit a crime scene, such a visit may be valuable storage devices, digital recording devices,
to the investigation. The scene and any evidence digital cameras and closed-circuit television
within it should be protected by the use of a (CCTV) footage.
cordon. Where possible and relevant, it should be
62. All relevant material should be recorded in
protected from weather or other factors that could
documentary and photographic form as described
degrade evidence.
in the Detailed Guidelines on Crime-Scene
60. A record of all personnel entering the scene Investigation. Investigations vary in their capability
should be kept with the corresponding date and to examine the material scientifically, but
time of their visit. Individuals interacting with effectively recording the crime scene using notes,
evidence should provide DNA and fingerprints sketch plans and photographs will be necessary.
as reference samples. To minimize forensic Crime-scene recording and recovery of evidence
contamination and to protect the health and safety should be thorough.
of personnel, suitable protective clothing should
63. Samples should ideally be recovered and
be worn wherever it is available, including, at
recorded by personnel with appropriate training
a minimum, gloves and masks. To ensure that
or knowledge. Some sampling requires only
evidence is preserved, the correct packaging
basic training, but those undertaking medico-legal
and methodology for each type of evidence need
examinations will need advanced training in the
to be used. When resources or logistics do not
context of their own judicial framework.
allow for this, packaging that will minimize cross-
contamination or the forensic degradation of the 64. Investigators should be appropriately equipped,
sample should be used. including with personal protective equipment;
relevant packaging such as bags, boxes and
plastic and glass vials/bottles; and recording
materials, including photographic equipment.

Even if a crime has not occurred, the death scene should be processed as though it is a crime scene.

14 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
65. Every stage of evidence recovery, storage, 3. Family liaison
transportation and forensic analysis, from crime
67. Wherever it is feasible, a specific and suitably
scene to court and through to the end of the
trained and experienced family liaison expert
judicial processes, should be effectively recorded
should be appointed to offer the family of the
to ensure the integrity of the evidence. This is
deceased information and support as well as to
often referred to as the “chain of evidence” or
collect the information, such as ante-mortem data,
“chain of custody”. Chain of custody is a legal,
required for identifying a deceased person.92
evidentiary concept requiring that any prospective
The expert should meet the family at the earliest
item of evidence be conclusively documented in
opportunity, should provide regular updates
order to be eligible for admission as evidence
about the investigation, its progress and results,
in a legal proceeding. This includes the identity
and should address any concerns the family may
and sequence of all persons who possessed that
have as the investigation progresses.93 A positive
item from the time of its acquisition by officials
relationship with the family of any missing or
to its presentation in court. Any gaps in that
deceased person can produce useful information
chain of possession or custody can prevent the
and results for any investigation.
introduction of the item as evidence against a
criminal defendant. Evidential material should 4. Understanding the victim
be transported in a manner that protects it
from manipulation, degradation and cross- 68. Lifestyle inquiries about the victim should be
contamination with other evidence. Each piece conducted and a victim profile developed.
of evidence recovered, including human remains, Appropriate sensitivity should be used with respect
should be uniquely referenced and marked to to, for example, findings of marital infidelity or
ensure its identification from point of seizure to other stigmatized sexual behaviour. The profile will
analysis and storage. To meet chain of evidence test the working hypotheses of the case and assist
and integrity requirements, the transportation, in generating investigative opportunities where
tracking and storage of this evidence should other lines of inquiry have been exhausted. It may
include the investigator’s details. also assist in identifying a motive for the crime.
Information may be gathered from the victim’s
66. Evidential material should be kept in an associations, lifestyle, behaviour patterns and
appropriate storage facility at all stages of electronic devices.
the investigation. Storage facilities should be
clean, secure, suitable for maintaining items in 5. Finding, interviewing and protecting witnesses
appropriate conditions, and protected against 69. Individuals who might have information about a
unauthorized entry and cross-contamination. potentially unlawful death should be sought and
Digital evidence should be collected, preserved interviewed. Publicizing the investigation may
and analysed in accordance with international encourage witnesses and others to come forward
best practice.91 in the knowledge that their information will be
dealt with confidentially and sensitively.

See, e.g., Association of Chief Police Officers, “Good Practice Guide for Digital Evidence”, UK,
There will be circumstances when the authorities themselves are implicated in a suspicious death and liaison with the authorities to transmit and receive informa-
tion about the investigation will not be acceptable to the family. Legal representatives for the family, or the involvement of non-governmental organizations, may
be possible ways to ensure that important information is available.
See also paras. 35–37 above.

70. The purposes of witness interviews are to: 73. House-to-house inquiries should be conducted in
the vicinity of important physical locations and
(a) Obtain as much relevant information as the crime scene, if it has been identified. House-
possible, through a systematic and fair to-house inquiries help the investigators to identify
process, to assist the investigators in objectively witnesses who live or work in key areas, gather
establishing the truth local information and intelligence, identify other
(b) Identify possible suspects witnesses or suspects and raise awareness of the
investigation, which may encourage people with
(c) Allow individuals an opportunity to provide
information to come forward.
information that they believe is relevant to
establishing the facts 74. Interviews with family members and others to
(d) Identify further witnesses collect ante-mortem data for body identification
– such as hair, blood, saliva samples, dental
(e) Identify victims
or chest X-rays, and information about possible
(f) Establish the location of crime scenes and bone fractures and other injuries or diseases –
burial sites should be conducted by trained professionals
(g) Establish background information and facts who are in a position to answer technical
relevant to the alleged killing(s),94 and questions authoritatively and with at least a
basic knowledge of the correct medical and
(h) Identify leads in the investigation. odontological terms. Proper equipment is needed
71. Investigators conducting interviews should to take samples, and donors should complete
approach all witnesses with an open mind and consent forms that state how the samples will be
observe the highest ethical standards. A careful stored, who can access them, who manages the
assessment of risk, strategies and adequate human genetic database and how the data is to be used.
and financial resources must be in place to ensure
the safety and security of all witnesses in the case. 75. A media appeal may help to identify and locate
Families in some circumstances could, with reason, people and material that could be useful to the
fear for their safety. Careful attention should also investigation. This could include setting up a
be paid to the safety of the investigator, since a telephone hotline, an email address and/or a
witness may be the perpetrator. social media web page, which people could
use for providing information to investigators
72. A list of significant witnesses should be drawn up confidentially or even anonymously. Consideration
and their interviews prioritized. These witnesses should also be given to offering a reward in return
include those who saw or heard the crime being for relevant information.
committed, people with relevant knowledge of
the victim(s) and/or suspected perpetrator(s), 76. A specific strategy should be developed,
and people in the same organization or chain especially if a suspect is a state official, to ensure
of command as the suspected perpetrator who that anyone coming forward will be assured that
may be able to provide information linking the information they provide will be dealt with
people other than the direct perpetrator to the confidentially, within the limits of the law.
death.95 Full statements should be taken from these
witnesses. Where feasible and appropriately 6. International technical assistance
secure, investigators should consider recording 77. The assistance of law enforcement agencies in
their interviews by audio or video means. During other States may help the investigation cover
the investigation phase, witness lists are highly any gaps in the technical capacity of local
sensitive and must be carefully safeguarded to investigators. International bodies such as
ensure that witnesses are not exposed to undue Interpol, for example, might be able to support
risk. Electronic documents that may identify a the investigation, and humanitarian organizations
witness should be taken outside the investigation such as the International Committee of the Red
office only in encrypted form. Access to hardcopy Cross (ICRC) might offer advice on forensic
documents that may identify a witness must be best practices for the proper and dignified
restricted to the maximum extent possible. management and identification of the dead in
humanitarian contexts.

This may include, for example: the identity of political officials or military and paramilitary leaders; the identity and description of perpetrators; chains of
command; communication codes and methods; details of official documentation linked to the killings; public announcements relevant to the crimes; interaction
between military and political structures; the financing of military operations; and the chronology of events leading up to the killing(s).
For example, this could be through various modes of liability, including participation in a joint criminal enterprise, superior responsibility, ordering, aiding and
abetting, planning, or instigating.

16 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
7. Telecommunications and other digital evidence 80. Analysis should compare call-data numbers and
data, cross-referencing the movements of all
78. Within the confines of the applicable law,
people of interest in the case, on pictorial charts
mobile telephone data should be requested from
using specialist software, if available.
service providers. This information may help in
establishing the identity, roles and relationships 8. Financial issues
of persons of interest and their presence and
participation in key activities (such as presence at 81. A financial profile of the victim should be
key locations, attendance at meetings, the conduct developed where necessary and appropriate.
of any surveillance, the procuring of materials Where a body or remains are located, this may
and the execution of the crime). In planning an assist in establishing the time of death. In cases of
investigation, investigators should familiarize missing persons, continued activity on an account
themselves with the data-retention policies of the may help to determine if the suspected victim is still
service providers. Mobile phone data allows alive. In all cases, a financial profile can reveal
authorities to analyse the phone numbers that new leads for an investigation.
connect to a particular phone tower within a given
period of time. Investigators can then match the 82. Once a suspect has been identified, a suspect
mobile phone numbers with a particular customer’s financial profile should be developed. Evidence
name, address and other account information, of uncharacteristic financial payments or an
potentially putting individuals at locations at extravagant lifestyle should be sought.
specific times. The mobile phones of the deceased 9. Chronology of events
and all prime suspects should be legally recovered
and relevant data (e.g. dialled, missed and 83. A “living” chronology of events should be
received calls, text (sms) or other messages, developed as the investigation proceeds. This
photographs, contacts and diary entries) should be sourced from any material obtained
professionally downloaded. The phones can then during the investigation, including:
be returned to the family of the deceased or to the
suspect, as the case may be. Where a phone is (a) Witness statements
recovered that appears to have been used by a (b) Known movements of the victim
perpetrator, but the identity of the user or owner (c) Known movements of any suspects
of the phone is not otherwise established, service
provider or other information showing that the (d) Call and other communication data
recovered phone has made or received calls or (e) Documents, including police reports logs and
messages from family members of a prime suspect notebooks
will make it easier to demonstrate, using phone
(f) Mobile phone site data
attribution analysis, that the phone belonged to or
was used by a particular suspect. (g) Financial transactions
(h) CCTV footage and photographs
79. For all phones identified as relevant it may also
be useful to request subscriber details, method (i) Lifestyle data.
of payment and call data, together with mobile
A chronology can help provide an overall
phone site locations and any other data providers
understanding of events, identify gaps in
can offer. This may include text messages or
knowledge and generate new lines of inquiry.
International Mobile Station Equipment Numbers,
which may identify the type, model and capability
of the handsets used. Smart phones used by the
victim or any suspects should be analysed for
Wi-Fi locations activated and Internet sites visited
for information which may provide leads in the
investigation. Where possible, investigators should
also obtain cell site coverage maps from service

C. Interviews and Witness Protection
1. General principles 87. An effective witness-protection programme is
essential for some investigations, and should
84. Interviews form an integral part of almost any
be in place before the investigation begins.
investigation. If conducted well, they can obtain
This includes reliable and durable protection
accurate, reliable and complete information
for witnesses at risk, including the secure
from victims, witnesses, suspects and others.
management of personal information, and legal
Poorly conducted interviews can undermine
and psychological support both during and after
an investigation and place people at risk. The
the investigation and any judicial proceedings.
Detailed Guidelines on Interviews provide
States should ensure that the authorities in charge
more thorough guidance on how to conduct
of witness protection should in no way be involved
an interview effectively and appropriately, and
in the alleged death.
investigators should also refer to other relevant
documents.96 3. Recording interviews
85. Interviews should be conducted in a way 88. All formal and informal interviews should be
that maximizes access to justice for affected recorded, regardless of where they take place,
individuals and minimizes as much as possible right from the commencement of an investigator’s
any negative impact the investigation may have contact with a prospective witness or suspect. In
on interviewees. Special care should be taken certain circumstances this may be subject to the
when interviewing the bereaved or those who consent of the prospective witness or suspect.
have witnessed a crime, in order to prevent their
retraumatization.97 Interviews should be conducted 89. Interviews may be recorded in written form, audio,
by trained individuals who apply the highest or video. Considerations as to the best method to
professional and ethical standards in order to use may include the preference of the interviewee,
obtain accurate information while respecting the interview setting, and concerns about privacy
the rights and well-being of the interviewee. It and security.
is particularly important, in interviews gathering
ante-mortem data which might be used later for
identification purposes, that both the interviewer
and the interviewee fully appreciate the uses to
which the data might be put.

2. Security and well-being
86. The security and well-being of interviewees and
interviewers is paramount. Risk assessments
should be conducted before engaging with
any witness to help ensure that the benefit of
the engagement outweighs the risk. When
necessary, and subject to the consent of the
individual(s) concerned, investigators should take
steps to protect an interviewee and others from
ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of
providing information. Possible measures include
protecting the identity of the interviewee (within
the parameters of the law and the rights of the
defence guaranteed under international fair
trial standards), physical protection, relocation
and placement in an effective witness-protection

See, e.g., OHCHR, Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, chap. 11, at:; and
chap. 14, at; ICRC Guidelines for Investigating Deaths in Custody, at: https://; World Health Organization (WHO), WHO Ethical and Safety Recommendations for
Researching, Documenting and Monitoring Sexual Violence in Emergencies, at:;
WHO, Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide For Researchers and Activists, at:
violence/9241546476/en/. See also the Istanbul Protocol, which offers guidance on the conduct of interviews where torture is suspected.
See, e.g., OHCHR, Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, chap. 12, available at:

18 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
D. Recovery of Human Remains
1. General principles 2. Labelling
90. The recovery and handling of human remains – the 94. Labelling means assigning a unique reference
most important evidence at a crime scene – require number to each body or body part (as well as
special attention and care, including respect for to each other piece of physical evidence). The
the dignity of the deceased and compliance with labelling of human remains should be reflected
forensic best practices. Human remains are often in the crime scene notes, the photographs and
recovered by police or other personnel without any sketches/diagrams/skeletal inventory forms
education or training in human biology, and recorded at the scene. The same labelling needs
thus there may be challenges in identifying body to be recorded on the packaging used to transport
parts and/or skeletal elements. The recovery and store the remains and any associated
of human remains should, preferably, be under evidence.
the supervision and advice of a suitably trained
forensic anthropologist (if skeletonized) and/or a 95. The rationale for a labelling system should
forensic doctor (if fleshed). Knowledge of forensic be documented in the crime scene notes. The
archaeology is also valuable in understanding labelling of human remains – whether individual
the taphonomic processes at the scene. Expertise bones, clusters of bones, body parts or complete
in forensic anthropology and/or archaeology bodies – should be unique and must be applied
may assist in the recovery of burnt, fragmented or consistently throughout the documentation and
buried remains. Handling encompasses labelling, packaging process. The labelling system should
packaging, security (including chain-of-custody be agreed on prior to collection and packaging.
documentation), transport and storage.
96. The labelling of recovered remains should use
91. When two or more parts of a body are found, unique designator codes, which can be based on
it should not automatically be assumed that the the following criteria:
separate body parts belong to the same body.
This determination should be made only by a (a) Location – the geographical location from
where the remains are recovered
forensic doctor or forensic anthropologist.
(b) Site – to distinguish between different sites
92. Photographs of human remains should be taken, (e.g. graves) in a particular location
whether of a complete body, scattered skeletal
(c) Individual – human remains identified as
remains or buried bodies. All photographs should
belonging to one unique individual; often
include a reference number, a scale, and a
this can be a single body part or skeletal
direction indicator. The position of the remains
should also be recorded through notations and
measurements in the scene sketch. Sketches The date on which the remains are discovered
and diagrams should document the disposition should be reflected in the code. The numbering
of the remains and associated evidence at the system may be used for all evidence recovered
scene. Such sketches and diagrams could be from the same site.
supplemented by details from a GPS and/or a
compass, a baseline, or any photogrammetric 97. If it appears that there are multiple deceased,
programme. If available, measurements and the exercise of recovering the human remains
recordings can also be made electronically using may follow that of a Disaster Victim Identification
a total station theodolite, which would allow procedure. In this case, the Interpol DVI Manual
later integration into a digital mapping/drawing should be consulted.99

93. The remains should be examined and any
clothing, personal items and associated evidence
photographed, with any observations recorded in
the scene notes. Additionally, any visible trauma
should be recorded in an anatomical diagram
and, in the case of skeletal remains, also in a
skeletal inventory form.

E.g. PL-I-1 (PL=Place name; I=Roman numeral for the site/grave at the place; 1=body number 1).

3. Inventory 103. Trace evidence that might be present on the hands
and/or under the fingernails (such as fibres or
98. Crime-scene notes should include a detailed foreign DNA) can be protected for later collection
inventory of the human remains recovered, and under controlled conditions in the mortuary by
should describe: placing the hands (and feet when necessary) in
(a) The state of decomposition of the remains paper bags, which should be sealed with tape.
Consideration should be given to whether fluid
(b) The body parts/skeletal elements recovered may leak from the body, thereby contaminating
and their specific location(s) the paper bags. Plastic bags encourage moisture
(c) Any visible defects/possible trauma condensation and mould growth if left in place
too long, but for short periods of time (e.g. several
(d) Clothing
hours) they may be more effective than paper
(e) Personal effects bags, which are prone to leaks.
(f) Any other contextual evidence associated
104. The placement of the body within the scene should
directly with the remains (e.g. ligatures,
be clearly and properly documented and the
blindfolds, projectiles, trace evidence).
surface underneath the body processed for any
99. The inventory should be drawn up under the additional evidence that might be present.
supervision of a forensic pathologist/doctor and/
or forensic anthropologist. A field identification of 105. The body should be placed in a body bag
body parts/skeletal elements and trauma should following chain-of-custody procedures. These
not be taken as final until confirmed by analysis procedures include the correct labelling of the
in the laboratory or mortuary. Any descriptions body and body bag, the completion of related
and preliminary determinations noted in the field documentation for security/chain of custody, and
should be recorded in the crime-scene notes and the sealing and signing of the body bag.
documented through photography and anatomical
diagrams, and in any scene sketches. The 106. Once the body has been recovered, it should be
labelling on the packaging needs to be consistent placed in refrigerated or cool storage to inhibit
with the numbering in the inventory, on the further decomposition of the remains.
diagrams and on the skeletal inventory forms, and
5. Skeletal remains on the surface
should be documented by photography.
107. Sometimes human remains found on the surface
100. Human remains are found in a wide variety are disarticulated and separated from each other
of circumstances, each of which may affect to such a degree that any association between
the recovery and handling of the remains. The them has been lost. In these circumstances, where
circumstances outlined below are for intact possible, a forensic anthropologist or forensic
bodies, skeletal remains on the surface, and doctor should be present at the scene, allowing a
buried bodies or skeletal remains. preliminary field assessment of:
4. Intact bodies (a) Whether the remains are human or not
101. Intact bodies are human remains that are (b) Whether the remains represent one or more
recognizable as one individual with most of individuals
the soft tissue present. In general, no detailed (c) The presence of any visible trauma.
examination or recovery of evidence on or
attached to the remains should be undertaken at The expert should then supervise a correct
the scene unless there are good reasons for doing inventory of the human remains.
108. In such circumstances, coordinated crime-
102. The preservation of trace evidence (e.g. gunshot scene search methods should be used to
residue, fibres, hairs and foreign DNA on locate all human remains prior to the labelling,
clothing) should be taken into account. In some documentation, recovery and preparation of an
cases such evidence might be contaminated inventory. The pattern of the scattering throughout
(for example, by blood from the deceased), the scene should be documented in notes and
displaced from its original location, or lost in sketches and through photography. Where
transport when left on the body. In such cases, available, a total station can also be used. This
the clothing should be carefully removed, secured can indicate where a body or bodies first came to
in individual packaging and placed in the body rest prior to disassociating into individual parts.
bag along with the body. The rationale for this
decision should be explained and recorded in
the crime-scene notes and documented through

20 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
109. After assessing the pattern of scattering and movement of soil or differences in plant growth that
recording the scene, the next task is to collect the might indicate the presence of a burial. Where
remains. Scattered skeletal elements need to be they are available, non-intrusive technologies
packaged in paper bags and labelled, sealed – such as satellite/aerial image analysis or
and signed according to evidence-packaging hyperspectral image analysis, and geophysical
procedures. survey equipment such as ground-penetrating radar
– may also be useful for indicating areas where
6. Buried bodies/skeletal remains soil has been disturbed, consistent with the burial
110. A grave may contain the remains of one person of human remains. Where appropriate, intrusive
buried alone or of two or more persons buried archaeological excavation methods, such as metal
either simultaneously or at different times. probes or trenches, should be used with care, by
qualified persons, to determine if human remains
111. A primary grave is the one in which the deceased are present and to expose the physical size and
is first placed. If the remains are then removed and detailed contents of a grave.
are reburied, the place of reburial is considered
to be a secondary grave. An undisturbed burial 7. Considerations in the recovery of buried remains
is unchanged since the time of primary burial. 113. Buried human remains can be encountered in
A disturbed burial is one that has been altered various stages of decomposition, from complete
after the time of primary burial, either by human bodies with soft tissues present to fully skeletonized
intervention, or animal scavenging, or by remains. The packaging method used will depend
other natural processes. All secondary burials on whether disinterred remains are complete
should be regarded as having been disturbed. bodies with soft tissue present (body bag) or fully
Archaeological methods may be used to detect a skeletonized (paper bags).
disturbance in a primary burial.
114. Buried remains are found in individual graves
112. Where human remains are buried, associated or mass graves. In all instances, archaeological
soil disturbances can be identified through surveys methods should be used in the excavation of
by experienced archaeologists. Such experts can any graves, as set out in the relevant Detailed
identify modifications in the landscape, vegetation, Guidelines.

E. Identification of Dead Bodies
1. General principles recognition: for example, the appearance of the
clothing or an item of jewellery such as a ring on
115. Human identification is the allocation of the
a finger. These can be unreliable. Interpol does
correct name/identity to human remains. In
not accept visual recognition as a form of positive
any death investigation, the identification of the
body or bodies is a major priority. It also meets
humanitarian, human rights, and other social 117. If the dead body is to be viewed for the purposes
and cultural needs. Good-quality ante-mortem of recognition to help in its formal identification,
and post-mortem data, properly compared, are this should be undertaken in controlled
required for a valid identification. circumstances. Whenever possible, the viewing
should be conducted in a designated area that
2. Visual recognition respects the viewer’s privacy and emotional state
116. The viewing of the dead body and its recognition and minimizes distractions. The process should be
by family or friends is a form of ante-mortem supervised and witnessed by a forensic doctor,
and post-mortem comparison. It is undertaken a trained mortuary technician, a grief counsellor
universally, and is often reliable. However, (social worker), or other trained professional.
recognition following the viewing of a dead Children should not be involved in visual
body by a relative or friend can be mistaken: recognition for identification purposes.
either falsely positive or falsely negative. Virtually
all mortuaries have experience of such mistakes. 118. The dead body should be professionally assessed
Factors contributing to this possibility include as being capable of being recognized by visual
facial congestion or lividity; lung oedema or inspection. The person being asked to make the
stomach fluids issuing from mouth and/or nose; visual identification should always be informed
the presence of facial fractures, other injuries, of the condition of the remains and asked if they
or bleeding; or changes associated with wish to proceed. The body should not be in an
decomposition. Family members may be anxious advanced state of decomposition; there should
or distressed to the point where they may not be no significant injury affecting the central facial
even look at the body or face of the deceased. features and, preferably, the face should be clean.
A family member may rely on something other (This last requirement may not be compatible with
than the facial appearance of the deceased for investigative priorities – e.g. the examination,

119. Preferably, the person viewing the dead body 124. Whatever methods of identification are employed,
should be asked to look particularly at the body a methodical and holistic approach, involving the
and face and engaged in discussion about what appropriate experts, with complete and detailed
facial (or bodily) features he or she relied on in documentation, is always necessary.
reaching their decision. For example, was it the
appearance of the face, the shape of the nose 4. Events with multiple deaths
or a mole on the face, a scar or the hair style? 125. Visual recognition alone should not be relied
In this way, any person witnessing the process can upon in cases of multiple deaths. Misidentification
assess whether or not the conclusion of the person is more common in such circumstances owing
viewing the dead body is likely to be reliable. to emotional pressures on those undertaking the
viewing. The strain of viewing a row of dead
3. The scientific approach to identification
bodies, or a number of dead bodies individually
120. In potentially unlawful death (and especially as one after the other, reduces the likelihood of a
time passes and the body begins to show signs of reliable recognition. Additionally, personal effects
decomposition, or the facial appearance is altered are not unique, and depending on the processes
by the effects of injury or fire), any identification around the retrieval of the bodies they may have
by visual recognition must be confirmed whenever been incorrectly put with the wrong body.101
possible by using other means, including
scientifically reliable methods of identification 126. Reliable identification following an event involving
such as fingerprints, dental examination and DNA multiple deaths requires organizational and
analysis. technical forensic competence. This applies to:

121. These scientifically reliable methods are sometimes nn The scene, and the proper collection, recording,
referred to as “primary” methods of identification. transport and storage of dead bodies, property
Assessments of physical characteristics (such as and effects
body deformities, scars or surgical prostheses, as nn The mortuary, the post-mortem examination
visible on the body or as represented in X-rays), (possibly including an internal examination and
which are compared with records made in life, dental and anthropological examinations), and
are generally regarded as secondary methods, the collection and storage of post-mortem data
although in some cases they could, individually or
nn The collection of ante-mortem data about those
collectively, approach the level of being uniquely
who may have been killed in the event, and
identifying. The identification of personal effects
is also regarded as a secondary method. Primary nn The reconciliation of ante-mortem and post-
and secondary methods may be combined to mortem data to reach conclusions about identity.
strengthen the evidence for the conclusion. 127. The approach to human identification in events
involving multiple deaths on a small to moderate
122. If remains are skeletonized, physical/forensic
scale has been standardized by Interpol.102 For
anthropologists, if available, should be involved
such events on a large scale, the work published
so as to obtain the most reliable conclusions about
by the Pan American Health Organization, the
the biological profile of the skeletal remains.100
World Health Organization (WHO) and the
123. The selection of the most appropriate method(s), ICRC offers a different approach.103 The two
ranging from visual recognition to sophisticated approaches to human identification complement
primary methods of identification, is an expert each other and, if circumstances dictate, may
decision, usually the responsibility of the forensic be combined. A reliable approach to human
doctor. The reason for selecting the methods identification in events involving multiple deaths
used in a particular case, and the results, must should be planned and trained for in advance.
be included in the final report. The results are
considered, along with other relevant information,
in addressing the question of the identification of
the dead body.

See Detailed Guidelines on Analysis of Skeletal Remains.
Interpol DVI procedures require loose personal effects to be collected separately at the scene. They must not be allocated to a particular body.
See Interpol, Disaster Victim Identification Guide, 2014, at:
M. Tidball-Binz and D. Van Alphen (eds.), Management of Dead Bodies after Disasters: A Field Manual for First Responders, 2016, available at:

22 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
5. Conclusions about identity
128. The final conclusion about identity in circumstances
of potentially unlawful death is made by different
officials in different countries, but should always
be based on expert opinion and advice.

129. The results of the application of the selected
methods to the deceased should be compared
with the records (or with profiles from ante-
mortem biological samples) of a known, named
individual. Information from the circumstances of
the case and from the examination of the place of
death and/or where the dead body was found
can properly be taken into account in some cases
(see Table 1).

Table 1: Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem Data for the Purpose of Identification


Information from the dead body/skeletal remains
Information on the missing person obtained from
obtained by investigation, forensic examination
investigations, oral accounts, or records
(including photographs) or laboratory tests

Circumstances of death (place, history of the events, Cause and circumstances of death, location where
possible injuries) the body or remains were found, other traumatic
Date of disappearance Date of recovery, time since death, general condition
of the body
Age, sex and gender, stature, ancestry, weight Biological profile (sex, age group, ancestry, estimated
stature and weight) and gender
Physical appearance (e.g. eye colour, hair colour), Distinguishing features, physical appearance, surgical
surgical implants, prostheses, skin marks, scars, implants, prostheses, skin marks, scars, tattoos,
tattoos, occupation occupational marks
Clothing and artefacts, eyewear, footwear Complete description of clothing and personal
belongings found with the body
Medical records, medications, X-rays Evidence of ante-mortem trauma, surgical procedures,
signs of pathology, medication found with the body
Dental records (information on dental condition and Dental chart, dental condition, features
dental treatment)
Fingerprints Fingerprints, when possible
Photographs Photographs, if suitable
Records of identity documents Identity documents recovered or associated with the
DNA profiles from biological samples from the DNA profiles from samples obtained from the body
missing person or from his/her relatives

130. An analysis of all available evidence leads to a There may be cases when, despite all possible
final conclusion. In general terms, this could be: scientific efforts to achieve identification, available
information indicates only a probable/possible
(a) Identification where there is consistency identity.
between ante-mortem and post-mortem data
and there are no discrepancies that cannot be Whether the death is that of an individual or of
explained multiple individuals in one event, families should
(b) Rejection of a possible identity when be involved in and fully informed about the
evidence supports the exclusion of a particular identification process. In many cases, this is not
hypothesis about the identity of the human only necessary to achieve an identification, it also
remains, or improves the likelihood that the family will accept
the identification, which is an important part of
(c) No conclusion about the identification of accountability for potentially unlawful death(s),
the human remains. as set out above. Careful attention to clear
The relevant findings should be stated in the final communication will also improve the chances of a
report on identity. successful outcome.

F. Types of Evidence and Sampling
1. General principles 134. Biological samples are also a source of DNA,
which can be used to establish the identity of
131. A range of types of evidence should be
persons and link them to the scene or to a piece
considered when collecting samples and
of evidence recovered there. Biological samples
evidence of human remains. Sample sizes for both
include the following:
biological and non-biological evidence should be
sufficient for laboratory analysis and should allow nn Soft tissues
for repeat testing.
nn Bone
2. Human biological evidence nn Teeth
132. Biological evidence in forensic analysis generally nn Blood
refers to organic substances collected from the nn Urine
human body or its surroundings. These can be
collected directly from the human body or from nn Saliva
items used by the person in question, such as nn Semen/sperm
toothbrushes, hair brushes and unlaundered
nn Vitreous fluid
nn Hair
133. Identification and the proper collection and
nn Natural nails (finger and toe).
preservation of biological samples from a crime
scene require specialized training in searching
and testing for the presence of biological
evidence. Biological samples from bodies may
also be collected at the morgue or forensic
anthropology laboratory. The collection of
biological reference samples from living persons,
for comparison purposes, should be conducted by
personnel trained in dealing properly and ethically
with victims and their families, and should be
based on informed consent.

24 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
135. Forensic biological evidence can usually be 139. Very often, firearms examiners are also responsible
analysed for DNA if necessary. DNA analysis in for firearm discharge analysis, to assess whether
forensic contexts is used to produce profiles that or not a firearm has been discharged, or analysis
are accepted as identification evidence in many of items such as clothing to determine the distance
courts worldwide and are individualizing to very between the impact and the position from which
high degrees of probability. The persistence of the gun was discharged. Chemical traces on the
DNA trace evidence depends on the conditions hands or clothing of a suspect may indicate that
it has endured and the manner in which it is he or she has fired a weapon.
recovered, secured and stored. Damp, humid
conditions can affect the persistence of a iii. Fingerprints
viable DNA trace and the ability to develop 140. Fingerprints (including thumb prints) are a
a profile. Evidence should, as far as possible, long-established means by which persons
be maintained at a constant temperature and are individually identified with a high level of
sealed in such a way as to minimize the risk of probability. This comparison is based on the
contamination. unique patterns of friction ridges and furrows on
136. Forensic biological evidence may also be fingers and thumbs, as well as on palms, feet
analysed toxicologically for chemicals that have and toes. Even identical twins have different
an adverse effect on human beings, such as drugs fingerprints. Fingerprints are often collected
(controlled substances) and poisons. This applies routinely and are a common means of scientific
to biological samples from living persons as well identification. There can be problems, however,
as from the deceased. for example with partial prints.

141. Fingerprints may be recovered from or visualized
3. Non-biological physical evidence
on a variety of surfaces (in particular smooth,
i. Chemistry shiny ones) using a number of techniques. These
include applying a powder and “lifting” the
137. Forensic chemistry is used to identify unknown fingerprint with a tape or gel lift. Once it has
substances at a crime scene. They include been enhanced with powder, the print can be
suspected drugs, toxic substances, gunshot residue photographed. It can also be recovered as a
(firearms) and explosive materials. complete item and submitted to a laboratory for
examination. Latent fingerprints can be visualized
ii. Firearms on porous surfaces, using a number of chemical
138. Firearms evidence is derived from the examination enhancement techniques, which are particularly
of handguns and long guns; projectiles such as effective on paper. Chemical enhancement is
spent bullets and shot; and ballistic information, normally undertaken in a laboratory and not at the
including the pattern and movement of projectiles crime scene, so great care should be taken when
from a firearm after discharge. Trained examiners packaging and transporting the item.
may be able to link expended projectiles,
cartridge casings and related ammunition iv. Other non-biological evidence
components to a particular firearm. In addition 142. Other relevant evidence includes military ordnance
to matching a particular firearm to a fired and weapons; fibre analysis; impressions (e.g.
projectile or expended cartridge casing, a tyre tracks, footwear impressions); pattern analysis
firearms examiner may also be able to identify (e.g. bloodstain patterns/blood spatter analysis,
the manufacturer of a gun. At the time of drafting burn patterns, fracture analysis); tool marks; car
of this Protocol, however, toolmark and firearms paint analysis, comparison and identification; and
analysis lacked a precisely defined and universally questioned documents. Care needs to be taken
accepted process.104 to ensure that the analysis of such evidence is
underpinned by a validated scientific method.

See, e.g., Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United
States: A Path Forward, US Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 2009, pp. 150–55, at:

4. Digital evidence 5. Forensic accounting
143. Digital evidence is information and data that are 146. Forensic accounting applies accounting, statistical
stored on, received from or transmitted by an and economic analysis to a criminal investigation.
electronic device. Digital evidence can be found In the investigation of a suspicious death, it may
in images on cameras, on the internet, computers, uncover information that helps to identify a motive
mobile phones and other digital media, such as for a killing and possible suspects or witnesses.
USB sticks.
6. Soil/environmental samples
144. Digital evidence has become increasingly
147. When the crime scene involves an outdoor
important in investigations. It can be recovered
location, soil/environmental samples should be
from a number of sources: open systems such as
taken. Samples should be taken from the crime
the internet and social media; and closed systems
scene itself and also from the surrounding areas.
such as computers, laptops, mobile phones and
These later samples provide control samples,
cameras. Internet and mobile-phone service
allowing the forensic expert to determine
providers frequently keep their data (e.g. call
background levels and weigh the importance of
records) for only a limited time. In planning an
the evidence recovered from the crime scene.
investigation, investigators should be aware of
Samples should also be taken from alleged
how long data is retained by these providers so
perpetrators’ clothing/footwear. Comparing the
they can ensure that the appropriate information is
sample recovered at the crime scene with those
requested within the available time frame.
samples recovered from the suspect could provide
145. Digital information can be recorded in various a link.
formats: photographs, audio recordings, video
recordings, email/network communications,
text/sms messages, mobile phone applications
and social media. All of this information can
be useful to an investigator. The metadata (e.g.
information on the creator, date of creation,
device, location, alteration/changes) can provide
valuable information. However, this metadata
can also be easily manipulated. Authenticating
digital evidence is a technical challenge. If
digital evidence is considered to be important in
an investigation, every effort should be made to
ensure that a qualified forensic expert recovers
and/or examines the evidence.

26 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
G. Autopsy
1. General principles 151. The autopsy report may be used by the authorities
and others to help determine if the deceased was
148. Paragraph 25 sets out the aims of an investigation
assaulted (including whether they were tortured
into a potentially unlawful death. To achieve
or maltreated), and if the injuries either caused or
these aims, the necessity for an autopsy should
contributed to death. On this basis, the autopsy
be considered. With the exception of identifying
report must not only include a list of the findings
possible witnesses, all of the aims rely to some
and injuries, it must also provide an interpretation
extent on an autopsy being performed, so helping
of them. If the forensic doctor believes that
to achieve them becomes a key duty of the
specific injuries have been inflicted by a particular
forensic doctor, who must be well trained and
mechanism, such as might occur during torture,
experienced. for example, then he/she is strongly encouraged
149. While the duties of clinical doctors are generally to provide that opinion in writing in the autopsy
understood by the public, this is not the case report. In addition, if a group of injuries, when
with respect to forensic doctors.105 The duties of considered together, imply a certain pattern of
forensic doctors in relation to death investigations inflicted maltreatment, this should also be clearly
are: (i) to help ensure that the identity of the stated in the autopsy report. While the forensic
deceased is established; (ii) to help ensure that doctor may not make the final determination of
the cause and circumstances of the death are whether the deceased was assaulted (or tortured),
revealed; and (iii) to exercise care and skill in this it is his/her duty to interpret and explain, if at
work. The discharge of these duties requires an all possible, how the injuries occurred. If the
understanding of the basic aims of the autopsy. connections between the observed injuries and
These aims are to: (i) discover and record all the mechanism of infliction are not made by the
the identifying characteristics of the deceased forensic doctor, then the main value of actually
(where necessary); (ii) discover and record all performing the autopsy – helping to find the truth
the pathological processes, including injuries, behind the death – may be lost.
present; (iii) draw conclusions about the identity 152. The Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy should
of the deceased (where necessary); and (iv) be followed to the extent possible given the
draw conclusions as to the cause of death and resources available. The forensic doctor should
factors contributing to death.106 In situations request additional resources if they are regarded
where the circumstances of death are unknown as necessary or desirable in the circumstances
or in question, a forensic doctor should apply of the case. Use of the Guidelines will permit
the autopsy findings and conclusions to the valid and reliable conclusions to be reached,
reconstruction of those circumstances. If possible, thus contributing to the correct resolution of
the doctor should attend the scene of death, controversial cases. It will also thwart the
preferably with the body in situ.107 speculation and innuendo that are fuelled by
150. A forensic doctor should record the positive and unanswered questions in the investigation of an
relevant negative observations and findings apparently suspicious death.
in such a way as to enable another forensic
153. The Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy include
pathologist at another time to come to his or her
guidance on the detection of torture as an aide-
own conclusions about the case independently.
memoire for forensic doctors who may not be
As forensic pathology is essentially a visual
experienced in the assessment of such cases. The
exercise, this involves a dependence on good
Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy are supported by
quality – preferably colour – photography.
the Detailed Guidelines on the Analysis of Skeletal

In this document, forensic pathologist, forensic doctor and prosector are used interchangeably. The last term refers to the person undertaking the autopsy.
See, e.g., M. El-Nageh, B. Linehan, S. Cordner, D. Wells and H. McKelvie, Ethical Practice in Laboratory Medicine and Forensic Pathology, WHO Regional
Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Alexandria, Egypt, 1999, pp. 38–39, at:
This excerpt relates to the duties of the prosector in a forensic autopsy generally, not specifically one involving a potentially unlawful death. In the latter case, the
expectation will be that, if possible, the forensic doctor will attend the scene of the death, usually at the request of the police.

154. The forensic doctor should be responsible and 2. The role of radiological imaging in investigating
accountable for the autopsy. In other words, he potentially unlawful death
or she should be in charge of this part of the
158. Plain X-rays have always been used, and continue
overall investigation into the potentially unlawful
to play an important part, in the investigation
death, and accountable for it in accordance with
of the cause and circumstances of potentially
applicable law and ethics, including the need
unlawful death. In recent years, the advent of
to respect the dignity of the dead. (See also
new forms of radiological imaging known as
Paragraph 45).
cross-sectional and three-dimensional imaging
155. The body should be made available to the or scanning (computerized tomography – CT
forensic doctor for a reasonable minimum period scanning; magnetic resonance imaging – MRI
(e.g. 12 hours) that is sufficient to ensure an scanning), have captured the public imagination
adequate and unhurried examination. Unrealistic to the point where the term “virtual autopsy” has
limits or conditions are occasionally placed upon entered the language. The concept embedded
the forensic doctor with respect to the length in this term has led to expectations that scanning
of time permitted for the examination or the can reliably replace the traditional autopsy. Such
circumstances under which an examination is expectations are some way from being realized.
allowed. If unacceptable conditions are imposed,
the forensic doctor should be able to refuse 159. Whole-body scanning has, however, strengthened
to perform a compromised examination and the ability of medical science to investigate a
should prepare a report explaining this position. death, for the following reasons:
Such a refusal should not be interpreted as (a) Parts of the body not easily inspected by
indicating that an examination was unnecessary traditional means are now seen
or inappropriate. If the forensic doctor decides
to proceed with the examination notwithstanding (b) In some cases the reconstruction of three-
difficult conditions or circumstances, he or dimensional images from scanning data may
she should include in the autopsy report an assist in interpreting injury or disease, and the
explanation of the limitations or impediments. acceptability of the images may help courts to
understand this interpretation
156. Resources such as autopsy rooms, X-ray equipment (c) Victims of multi-fatality disasters can be triaged,
or adequately trained personnel are not available improving prospects for identification
everywhere, and their provision and upkeep
are usually not the responsibility of the forensic (d) Long-term digital storage of the images
doctor. Forensic doctors operate under divergent improves the reviewability of the examination
political and legal systems. In addition, social of the dead body
and religious customs vary widely throughout (e) Medico-legal systems where autopsies are rare
the world.108 The forensic doctor, therefore, may can obtain information about the body that
not always be able to follow all of the steps in would otherwise be unavailable.
this Protocol when performing autopsies. Minor
160. The expense of this new imaging is such that it is
deviations from the Detailed Guidelines on
not, and is unlikely to become, widely available
Autopsy may be inevitable, or even preferable
on a global scale. In addition, although much
in some cases. When there are major deviations
work has been done, the relative sensitivity,
from the Guidelines, however, this should be
specificity and predictive value of findings made
explicitly noted and the reasons for them given in
using scanning techniques, compared to those
the autopsy report.
from autopsy, have yet to be comprehensively
157. In the investigation of potentially unlawful studied.
death, the body of the deceased is taken out of
family control and placed in the control of the
investigative mechanism. The forensic doctor
should be aware of the potential emotional
and other disruption this may cause, and
should minimize it, and the inconvenience to
the family, as much as possible consistent with
his/her obligation to discharge properly the
responsibilities set out in this document.

See, e.g., Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Abedelfattah Amor, on his mission to the United States of America, UN doc.
E/CN.4/1999/58/Add.1, para. 15(b).

28 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
161. Considerable experience is required to understand may be sufficient for trained and experienced
what questions can properly be answered by forensic doctors to reach reasonable conclusions
imaging techniques alone without the support of about a death. In a potentially unlawful death,
traditional autopsy. The images are quite different it is not likely that such conclusions will suffice to
from naked-eye images, and overlap only to some meet all the aims of the death investigation set out
degree the information obtained by traditional in Paragraph 25. As mentioned in the Section of
autopsy. Body samples are still needed for all the Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy that addresses
forms of post-mortem testing (e.g. toxicology, the post-mortem detection of torture, cross-sectional
histology, microbiology). Thus, while information scanning techniques may be particularly helpful in
is available from scanning the body that is the detection of some forms of torture.
sometimes not available from an autopsy, this
information supplements and does not replace the 163. If the technology of cross-sectional and three-
information available from the autopsy. dimensional imaging is to be relied upon to fulfil
the aims set out in Paragraph 25, and a decision
162. In some cases, findings from scanning considered is then made to have no autopsy, this approach
together with the deceased’s medical history, should be fully justified and the reasons for it
information about the circumstances of the death, documented.
and an external examination of the dead body,

H. Analysis of Skeletal Remains
164. The analysis of skeletal remains usually follows the and methods, in particular those relating to the
same principles and objectives as in the case of recovery and analysis of human remains, to
a fresh body: dignified management of the bodily resolve legal matters. The forensic anthropologist
remains; identification of the remains; assessing assists the forensic doctor in assessing skeletal
the cause and manner of death and, using traits for the purpose of identification or to find
archaeological dating methods, the time since and interpret signs of pathology and trauma.
death; and contributing to the reconstruction of the The forensic anthropologist may also collaborate
circumstances surrounding the death. with the forensic doctor in coming to conclusions
about the cause and manner of death and, using
165. Recently deceased, partially skeletonized archaeological dating methods, the time since
or completely skeletonized bodies require death.
an interdisciplinary approach. The forensic
doctor responsible for the case has to work in 166. Further guidance is set out in the Detailed
cooperation with other specialists. In the case Guidelines on Analysis of Skeletal Remains.
of skeletal remains, this requires a forensic
anthropologist. Forensic anthropology is the
application of physical anthropological theory

V. Detailed Guidelines

Detailed Guidelines
A. Detailed Guidelines on Crime-Scene Investigation
1. Introduction when records are kept according to chain-of-
custody standards, allowing for independent
167. Crime-scene examinations aim to identify
verification of the identity of the author, the origin
scientifically, document, collect and preserve court-
of the records and how they were subsequently
admissible evidence that may link suspects, victims
stored or managed. The effective implementation
and physical evidence with the scene. Such
of the right to the truth is also supported by a
examinations should be conducted by forensic
strong national archival system.
experts who have been trained in the legal and
scientific identification, documentation, collection 171. Crime-scene investigators are individuals trained
and preservation of evidence. in identifying, documenting, collecting and
preserving physical evidence for further analysis.
168. Documentation consists of:
At an early stage, it should be established which
(a) Photographic documentation. type of scientific expertise will be needed in the
Photographs can also include a reference field and, later on, in forensic laboratories. Some
scale and direction indicator. Video of the experts who may need to be consulted
documentation can supplement photographic include:
documentation, but owing to poor image
nn Forensic pathologists/doctors
resolution should not be considered a primary
means of capturing images nn Forensic anthropologists
(b) Measurements (e.g. length/width/height, nn Forensic archaeologists
marked on sketches, diagrams or maps; nn Forensic entomologists
instrument results)
nn Forensic odontologists
(c) Notes describing findings and recording data
collection. nn Forensic botanists

These records need to be managed according nn Forensic radiologists
to chain-of-custody standards, safeguarding them nn Ballistics and firearms experts
from possible manipulation. nn Chemists (e.g. with expertise in chemical
169. In situations where the rule of law has broken weapons) and/or toxicologists
down, such as during armed conflict, nn Human identification experts (e.g. fingerprint
investigations may not be carried out by local experts, mass fatality management experts,
authorities, and in such cases international molecular biologists/forensic DNA experts, or
bodies may not establish jurisdiction until long forensic dentists)
after any crimes have occurred, if at all. Under nn Digital data experts (e.g. mobile phones, memory
these circumstances, non-forensic experts, such as sticks, computers or social media), and
medical workers, journalists, or human rights
activists, may be the first to come upon the scene. nn Facial reconstruction experts.
What these witnesses document may be important Within the overall investigatory strategy,
to future investigations as well as to the proper recognized forensic laboratories should be
management of the dead and the identification of identified for subsequent laboratory examinations
victims, even though they have no formal legal and analysis of evidence.
mandate to identify, document or collect evidence.

170. Nonetheless, documentation through methodical
photographing and/or video recording,
measurements and thorough note-taking is a
means for such non-experts to contribute to
future truth-seeking and/or judicial inquiries. The
credibility of such documentation is increased

30 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
172. Once its dimensions have been identified, the 175. Any forensic analysis, including but not limited
scene needs to be secured. A crime scene entry to the crime scene, requires the following
log should be opened and maintained until the documentation methods: photography,
crime scene has been fully processed. Securing measurements, note-taking and an inventory. These
the scene entails: should all be cross-referenced against each other,
to improve the independent understanding of a
(a) Limiting access: Access to the geographic death scene and increase the credibility of the
area of the scene is documented and limited collected evidence.
to relevant experts and investigators. Access
that may have contributed to the contamination 2. Photographic documentation
and degradation of evidence, as well as any
176. The photographic documentation of a death
evidence of a manipulation of the scene that
scene and of any physical evidence is a two-
may have occurred or could possibly occur,
dimensional depiction of a three-dimensional
need to be identified and documented
space or object. Photographs should therefore be
(b) Personnel safety: The scene is rendered taken in sequence, with an overlap between one
safe for access for the identification, image and the next, allowing an outside observer
documentation and collection of evidence. In or examiner to understand the spatial relationship
circumstances such as ongoing armed conflict, between the items of evidence within a defined
or areas where items such as unexploded space such as a death scene.
ordnance, toxic agents, and/or booby-traps
are suspected, specialists with expertise 177. The sequence in which such photographs were
in rendering such items safe need to be taken should be documented by a photolog,
consulted. They include explosive ordnance identifying, at a minimum, the identity of the
disposal personnel and chemical, biological photographer, the position of a photograph within
and/or radiological experts. Precautions a sequence, the time the photographs were
against coming under armed attack might also taken and the location at which they were taken.
be necessary in some circumstances Where the technology exists, digital cameras
(c) Evidence security: Limiting access to a should be used. Check that the date and time on
death scene entails establishing a chain of the camera is set correctly. Digital cameras can
custody that originates when an individual generate a sequential file-numbering system and
crime-scene investigator identifies evidence. include metadata embedded in the digital images
themselves. Such metadata can include date and
173. The crime scene should be searched for evidence. time, the camera’s technical settings and, when
Where possible, the search should be conducted it is connected to a global positioning system
jointly with an investigator who is aware of (GPS) longitude and latitude information. Relevant
background information on the death, although information should be included in a photolog. The
great care should be exercised so as not to bias same data should be recorded if analogue (film)
the investigation. The search criteria must, at a cameras are used.
minimum, be documented in investigators’ notes.
This serves to identify which items are pertinent 178. Three types of photographs need to be included in
to establishing a sequence of events and can link the documentation of crime scenes and evidence:
suspects, victims and other physical evidence with
the scene of death. (a) Overview photographs visually establish
the spatial dimensions of a crime scene.
174. Items of physical evidence need to be identified Overview photographs should be taken from
with unique photo markers (numerical and/or the outside of the scene towards its centre,
alphabetical). The site code also needs to be ideally from along the outside perimeter of the
identified. This allows for their location and their scene. If possible, photo markers should be
relation to other items of evidence within the distinguishable in these photographs
death scene to be comprehensively documented,
including for inventory and chain-of-custody
purposes. A standard marking system for all
evidence should be introduced – see Paragraphs
94 to 97 on labelling.

(b) Medium-range photographs establish 4. Note-taking/data collection and compiling an
a spatial relationship between items of inventory
evidence and their location in a crime scene.
180. Existing forms are available. Notes establish
Photo markers identifying the individual
a written record by an individual death-scene
items of evidence should be visible in these
examiner or forensic expert. Often, such notes
are handwritten, adding to the credibility of the
(c) Close-up photographs visually establish work by individualizing the record itself through
the characteristics of individual pieces of the handwriting. The fact that such records are
evidence. They should include an initial relatively difficult to falsify and/or manipulate
photograph of the photo marker identifying the subsequently also increases their credibility.
evidence and then subsequent photographs of
the item of evidence. Close-up photographs 181. Notes should include, at a minimum, the name
should fill the frame of the photograph with the of the investigator, a date and time, and a
item of evidence and should include a scale. chronological log of the activities conducted
(such as search criteria, when the search was
3. Measurements
conducted, when and where photographs were
179. Measurements taken at the scene corroborate and taken, when and where measurements were
elaborate on the spatial dimensions documented taken, when and where evidence was collected
in the photographs. If resources allow, they can and packaged, and what types of analysis were
be generated through computer-aided design conducted). Notes should include an inventory
software and technology, such as laser scanners and a detailed description of items of evidence,
or theodolite systems, or can be hand-drawn. identified with their corresponding photo markers,
Such measurements and resulting diagrams and should be signed by the investigator carrying
should include, at a minimum, the name of the out the investigation or analysis.
investigator taking the measurements, a case
number, a date and time, measured dimensions, a 182. These methodical scientific documentation
north arrow and an index of the items of evidence techniques (i.e. photography, measurements
located in the sketch via measurements taken and notes) should be included in any forensic
at the scene. A scale and reference points are documentation. This applies both at a crime
needed for measurements. scene and in the laboratory, for example when
bloodstains on an article of clothing are being
documented, or when a medical examiner is
documenting a human body.

32 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
B. Detailed Guidelines on Interviews
1. Introduction 3. Starting the interview
183. These Guidelines look in detail at the conduct of 193. Record the interview from the very beginning using
an interview: how to prepare, how to start one, the means chosen.
how to elicit facts and how to conclude. They also
deal with how to interview a suspect, the role of 194. The interviewers should introduce themselves and
interpreters, and recording an interview. their affiliation and should clearly communicate the
purpose and intended use of the interview.
2. Preparation and setting
195. Informed consent should normally be sought from
184. Identify the purpose of the interview and how it fits the interviewee before proceeding. This requires:
into the overall investigative strategy.
(a) Discussing any risks associated with the
185. Learn what you can about the interviewee prior to interview
the interview, such as their relationship to events,
possible biases and potential security risks. (b) Agreeing on security measures to protect
the interviewee and others, without offering
186. Gather information, including documents and assurances that cannot be guaranteed. This
photographs, that might be referred to during the includes whether a person’s identity will be
interview. kept confidential and if so, how this will be
187. Prepare the best possible strategy and interview
structure to elicit information, but remain flexible. (c) Explaining that participation is voluntary and
Compile a list of key points to cover during the that the interviewee may stop the interview at
interview. any time, or may choose not to answer any
questions, without adverse consequences
188. Consider the gender, ethnicity, religion and other (d) When interviewing children, consider the best
profile factors of interviewers and interpreters, to interests of the child, including whether there
respect the interviewees’ culture and to help put are other ways to obtain the information than
them at ease. When interviewing people about through the interview. Ensure that the child
sexual or gender-based crimes, consider the understands the purpose and intended use
gender of interviewers and interpreters. Consult of the interview, and obtain his/her consent.
with experts before interviewing victims of sexual Whenever possible, inform the child’s parents
violence. or legal guardians of the interview, unless there
are reasonable grounds not to do so. The
189. Consult with experts on approaches to
child’s parents or legal guardians, or another
interviewing children, people with disabilities,
trusted person, may be present during the
the bereaved and others who are vulnerable or
interview if the child so requests
potentially prone to retraumatization. Examples
include holding shorter interviews, using simpler (e) When interviewing people with mental or
language and having trusted support persons intellectual disabilities, clearly explain, and
present. repeat if necessary, the purpose and intended
use of the interview. Use simple, accessible
190. Whenever possible, conduct the interview in a language (orally and/or in written format) and
secure and private place where the likelihood of allow the interviewee sufficient time to make a
disruption is minimized as far as possible. decision.
191. Whenever possible, conduct the interview in a 196. Ask the interviewee to describe everything that
one-to-one setting, considering the interviewee’s he/she knows to the best of their ability, and
preferences and needs. In some circumstances to make it clear when they are talking about
the protection of human rights and the quality something they have observed or heard directly
of the investigation may call for more than one versus information they have obtained from others.
interviewer, or the presence of a support person
197. Act fairly and with integrity. The use of duress,
for the interviewee. deception or unfair means to elicit information or
192. Allocate enough time to conduct a thorough to obtain a confession could result in evidence
interview without rushing, and allow time for being excluded from consideration by a court. It is
breaks. not permissible in any circumstances to use torture
or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to obtain
information from an interviewee.

198. For interviews with people who may be 211. Test information obtained from an interviewee
traumatized, try to ensure their privacy and against what the interviewer already knows or
comfort. Avoid questions that imply victim-blaming; what can reasonably be established.
avoid jumping back and forth between sensitive
and “safe” topics; and limit detailed questions 212. Ask interviewees to support their assertions with
about violent incidents, especially sexual and documents and other corroborative material.
gender-based crimes, to what is essential for the
213. Ask interviewees to draw maps and diagrams
for clarification and, when safe, to show the
199. Build rapport and show empathy as appropriate. interviewer locations relevant to the investigation.

200. Use neutral and culturally sensitive language. 214. Ask a wide range of questions to obtain
information, but keep questions appropriate to the
201. Keep an open mind, be objective and remain case.
215. When interviewing more than one person at a
4. Fact-finding time is unavoidable, clearly record which person
has provided what information.
202. Record the interviewee’s identity, personal and
contact details in a way that takes into account 216. Carefully observe the interviewee for signs of
any security concerns. retraumatization. Take breaks or stop an interview
when appropriate. Traumatized interviewees may
203. Record the identity, personal and contact details of have gaps or inconsistencies in their recollection
all others present at any time during the interview, of events.
taking into account security concerns.
217. The interviewee should be observed for any
204. Begin with non-controversial and less sensitive inappropriate or inconsistent responses to
questions, to establish a rapport before addressing questions, which may transform the interviewee
difficult topics. into a suspect.
205. Establish the interviewee’s relationship to events 218. When interviewing children – which, preferably,
(e.g. is the person an eyewitness, a relative, an should be undertaken by a specially trained
expert?). interviewer – use plain language, ask short
206. Ask open-ended questions to understand the questions and take frequent breaks. Stay attuned
overall picture, such as “describe”, “explain” and to the child’s medical and psychosocial needs,
“what happened next?”. and provide service referrals as appropriate.

207. Avoid questions that imply a certain answer 219. When interviewing people with disabilities,
(leading questions) or that elicit yes/no answers make sure they feel comfortable and safe.
(closed questions). Speak directly to the person and maintain eye
contact rather than interacting directly with a
208. Keep questions as short and simple as possible; support person or, if present, the sign language
repeat or rephrase a question if the answer was interpreter. When interviewing someone who is
unclear. blind or has limited vision, the interviewers should
identify themselves and any others present. When
209. As the interview progresses, ask for details to interviewing someone with a mental or intellectual
establish timelines, identify relevant individuals and disability, ask simple questions and repeat them
elicit facts that can later be checked. until understood. Provide referrals for medical and
psychosocial needs as appropriate.
210. Do not always accept the first answer given:
persistent questioning, done respectfully, helps to
obtain accurate information.

34 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
5. Concluding the interview 6. Additional guidance when interviewing a suspect
220. Read or play the record of interview back to the 228. In addition to the guidance set out above,
interviewee and allow the person to correct or suspects must be granted and informed of at least
clarify the contents. Ask if the interviewee has the following rights:
anything to add.
(a) To be presumed innocent until proven guilty,
221. Ask if the interviewee can suggest others to which includes a fair opportunity to provide
interview. their account of relevant events

222. Obtain, with permission, any material referred to (b) Not to be compelled to incriminate themselves
in the interview, such as photographs, medical (c) To remain silent
reports and court records. (d) To the presence and assistance of a lawyer
223. With the interviewee, review security measures during questioning, and to consult the lawyer
and ways to stay in contact after the interview. in private
(e) To have the interview recorded, including
224. Ensure that the interviewee certifies in writing or on place(s) and date(s) of questioning; the place
audio or video that: of detention, if any; the start and end times of
each interview session; the intervals between
(a) The interviewee’s statement has not been made
sessions (including rest periods); the identities
under any form of unlawful duress
of the interviewer(s) and all others present; and
(b) The content of the interview is true and correct any requests made by the individual being
to the best of the interviewee’s knowledge and questioned
(f) To be interviewed in a language he or she
(c) The interviewee was not threatened or forced understands
to give the statement, nor were any promises
(g) If the person is arrested or detained, to be
or inducements offered in this regard
informed immediately of the reason for the
(d) The interviewee is aware that the statement arrest and to be told promptly of any charges
may be used in legal proceedings and that
(h) For foreign nationals, to access consular
they may be called to give evidence
officials of their State of nationality; or, in the
(e) The interviewee may be liable to prosecution case of stateless persons, refugees, or asylum
for contempt of court, for interfering in the seekers, their relevant national authorities or
administration of justice, or for giving false UNHCR.
testimony if they say anything in the statement
that they know to be false or do not believe to 7. The role of interpreters
be true. 229. In some situations an interpreter may be
225. Ensure that the interviewee signs and dates every required to assist with the interview of a witness,
page of a written interview record. Any document victim, suspect, or other person relevant for the
or material, such as diagrams and photographs, investigation. The interpreter’s role is to facilitate
to which the interviewee refers or which s/ communication in a neutral and objective manner.
he creates during the interview should also be Interpreters should be limited to that role, have
signed or otherwise authenticated and should be appropriate interview training, be accredited
attached to the interview record. by the relevant authorities, understand the
terminology specific to the investigation, and
226. Ensure that all records from the interview are apply internationally agreed standards and best
stored securely to protect privacy and to maintain practice. The interpreter should declare any
security. potential conflict of interest in advance.

227. Identify points arising from the interview to follow
up in the investigation, including other people to
interview and potential lines of inquiry.

230. When selecting an interpreter, consider the (d) Disclose any real or perceived conflicts of
interviewee’s gender, sexual orientation, gender interest, including prior knowledge of, or
identity, nationality, ethnicity, religion, education, dealings with, the person being interviewed
literacy, language and dialect, and any of their (e) Avoid soliciting or accepting any gratuities or
preferences. An interviewee should have the right taking personal advantage of any information
to express the wish for a different interpreter. obtained in the course of their work
231. An interpreter should: (f) Maintain confidentiality, and protect
information obtained in the course of the work
(a) Only interpret for the language(s) for which from unauthorized individuals
they are qualified, authorized, or accredited
(g) Sign and give any notes they have made
(b) Provide a complete and accurate interpretation during the interview to the primary interviewer.
without alterations or omissions
232. An interpreter’s qualifications should be certified
(c) Demonstrate a high level of professionalism prior to the start of a session. At the end of the
and ethics and maintain their integrity, interview, the interpreter should certify, either in
impartiality and independence writing or on audio or video, that they have read
the record of the interview back to the interviewee
and that the interviewee has confirmed its

C. Detailed Guidelines on the Excavation of Graves
233. The following procedures apply to the excavation that needs to be given to this step. Associated
of all areas containing buried human remains. materials located at a secondary burial site are
unlikely to reveal the circumstances of the primary
234. Record the date, location, start and finishing times burial but may provide information on events that
of the disinterment and the names of all workers have occurred after it.
and other persons present.
239. Search for items such as bullets, or personal items
235. Record the information in narrative form, such as jewellery – for which a metal detector can
supplemented by sketches and photographs. be useful – particularly in the levels immediately
Videotaping may also be considered. above and below the level of the remains.
236. Photograph the work area from the same 240. Once the level of the burial has been located,
perspective before work begins and after it ends circumscribe the body and – after documenting
every day, to document any disturbance not archaeological findings such as the dimensions
related to the official procedure. of the grave (noting in particular the edges of the
grave outline), the deposition patterns and the
237. If recording equipment, such as a total station, is
characteristics of the matrix of the burial (the hole
not available, establish a datum point, then block
where the body is buried), including tool marks,
and map the burial site using an appropriate-sized
where possible – open the burial pit to a minimum
grid and standard archaeological techniques. In
of 30 cm on all sides of the body.
some cases it may be adequate simply to measure
the depth of the grave from the surface to the 241. Expose the body as clearly as possible to ensure
skull and from the surface to the feet. Associated that its full extent is visible before removal from
material may then be recorded in terms of its the scene. Make sure to expose similarly all
position relative to the skeleton. associated artefacts before removal. Carefully
expose the burial area by digging on all sides
238. Remove the overburden of earth, screening the dirt
to the lowest level of the body (approximately
for associated materials. Record the level (depth)
30 cm). Also expose any associated artefacts.
and relative co-ordinates of any such findings.
The type of burial, especially whether it is primary
or secondary, influences the care and attention

36 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
242. Expose the remains using a soft brush or whisk 246. When recovering skeletal remains, the general
broom (or other implement appropriate for the principle is that bones should not be separated
soil type). The remains may be fragile, and the from clothing until the remains are in the more
interrelationships between elements are important controlled conditions of a laboratory. The remains
and may be easily disrupted if not handled should be recovered taking all due care to
carefully. Damage can seriously reduce the minimize the loss of evidence, such as firearm
amount of information available for analysis. discharge residue. Where skeletal remains are
clothed, they should be removed using the clothing
243. Photograph and map the remains in situ. All as containers (i.e. the trousers containing the legs
photographs should include an identification and pelvis, the upper garments containing the
number, the date, a scale and an indication of chest and arms). Bearing in mind the possibility
magnetic north of commingling, each individual set of remains
(bones, clothing and associated evidence) needs
(a) First photograph the entire burial, then focus
to be appropriately packaged and labelled (e.g.
on significant details so that their relation to the
in a cardboard box, in the case of completely
whole can be easily visualized
skeletonized remains) for transport to the
(b) Anything that seems unusual or remarkable laboratory.
should be photographed at close range.
Careful attention should be given to evidence 247. Special attention must be given to commingled
of trauma or pathological change, either recent bodies. It might not be possible to exhume
or healed complete bodies at one time if they are
intertwined. In such cases, it is important to
(c) Photograph and map all associated materials
follow the anatomical articulation of the remains.
(e.g. clothes, hair, coffin, artefacts, bullets,
Either partially remove them (in cases of skeletal
casings). The map should include a rough
remains), or move the remains and free them from
sketch of the skeleton and of any associated
each other in order to recover a complete set.
materials. This needs to be carefully documented to ensure
244. Before displacing anything, measure the remains: that the remains are recovered whole and as
individual bodies.
(a) Measure the total length of the remains and
record their position in the grave 248. Special attention must be paid to the exhumation,
(b) If the skeleton is so fragile that it may break labelling and packaging of each individual set
when lifted, measure as much as possible of remains in order to ensure that no mixing of
before removing it from the ground. individual bodies or body parts, their clothing or
any associated evidence occurs.
245. When exhuming skeletal remains, the only way
to ensure the recovery of complete and individual 249. Excavate and screen the level of soil immediately
bodies is the to remove its skeletal elements under the burial. Document and recover, as per
according to the anatomical articulation of the the recovery strategy, any “finds” within the soil.
skeleton in the grave. A level of “sterile” (artefact-free) soil should be
located before ceasing excavation.

D. Detailed Guidelines on Autopsy
1. Background and key principles 252. Use of these Guidelines will help thwart the
speculation and innuendo that are fuelled by
250. These Guidelines should be followed during
unanswered, partially answered, or poorly
an autopsy of a potentially unlawful death.109
answered questions arising from the investigation
The order in which things are done needs to be
of a potentially unlawful death.
carefully thought about in advance, priorities
established, and procedures prepared for, in 253. The date, start and finishing times and the place
accordance with the particular circumstances of of the autopsy should be recorded.
the case. A complex autopsy may take an entire
working day or even longer, as the examiner may 254. The name(s) of the forensic pathologist
need to return for further examinations. prosector(s), the participating assistant(s) and all
other persons present during the autopsy should
251. These Guidelines may be of value to the be recorded, including the medical and/or
following: scientific degrees and professional, political or
administrative affiliations(s) of each. Each person’s
(a) Experienced forensic doctors or pathologists,
role in the autopsy should be indicated. If there
who may follow them to ensure a systematic
are multiple prosectors, one should be designated
examination and to facilitate meaningful
as the principal prosector with authority to direct
positive or negative criticism by later observers
the performance of the autopsy.
(b) General pathologists or other physicians who
have not been trained in forensic pathology 255. Adequate photographs are crucial for the thorough
or medicine but who are familiar with basic documentation of autopsy findings and for
autopsy techniques. It may also alert them enabling them to be independently reviewed:110
to situations in which they should seek
consultation (a) Photographs should be taken using a high-
quality camera/lens. If high-quality equipment
(c) Independent consultants whose expertise has is not available, then other equipment, such as
been requested in observing, performing, mobile phones, may be acceptable, bearing
or reviewing an autopsy and may cite these in mind that it is important for the photographs
Guidelines and their proposed minimum to be of sufficient quality to enable the autopsy
criteria as a basis for their actions or opinions findings to be independently reviewed. Each
(d) Governmental authorities, international political photograph should contain a ruled reference
organizations, law enforcement agencies, scale and an identifying case name or number.
families or friends of the deceased, or A description of the camera and the lighting
representatives of potential defendants charged system should be included in the autopsy
with responsibility for a death report. If more than one camera is used, the
(e) Historians, journalists, attorneys, judges, other identifying information should be recorded
physicians and representatives of the public, for each. Photographs should also include
who may use the Guidelines as a benchmark information indicating which camera took each
for evaluating an autopsy and its findings picture, if more than one camera is used. The
identity of the person taking the photographs
(f) Governments or individuals who are attempting should be recorded
either to establish or to upgrade their medico-
legal system for investigating deaths, who may (b) Serial photographs reflecting the course of
use the Guidelines as a basis. the external examination should be included.
Photograph the body prior to and following
undressing, washing, shaving or hair cutting
(c) Close-up photographs should be supplemented
with distant and/or medium-range
photographs to permit the orientation and
identification of the close-up photographs

For further specific advice on approaches to and technical aspects of forensic autopsy, including the operation of the mortuary, see: Forensic Autopsy: Manual
for Forensic Pathologists, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, October 2015.
Videotaping of the autopsy may also be considered.

38 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
(d) Photographs should be comprehensive, and 2. The clothed body
must confirm the presence and details of
257. Before clothing is removed, the clothed body
all demonstrable signs of injury or disease
should be photographed.
commented upon in the autopsy report.
Photographs of injuries should include a scale 258. If it has not already been done, and is indicated
with the autopsy number by the circumstances, the hands should now
(e) After the body has been washed or cleaned, be swabbed for firearm discharge residues. If
identifying facial features should be portrayed not done at the scene, the clothed body should
with photographs of a full frontal aspect of the be carefully inspected for any traces that might
face and right and left profiles of the face. constitute evidence. If any traces are found, they
should be described, retrieved, recorded as
256. The role of cross-sectional scanning has been
exhibits and secured.
discussed at Paragraphs 158 to 163 above. If it
is available, then CT scanning of the whole body 259. The clothing should be carefully removed
enclosed in the body bag should be undertaken. (preferably without damage) over a clean sheet
(If this is done, further consideration of the need or body pouch. The clothing and any jewellery
for plain X-rays will still be needed). In the likely should all be individually examined, described,
event that cross-sectional imaging is not available, recorded, labelled, photographed and secured.
the body should be radiographed with plain
X-rays before it is removed from its packaging. 3. External examination
X-rays should be repeated both before and after
260. The external examination, focusing on a search
undressing the body. Fluoroscopy (looking for
for external evidence of injury, is in most cases the
foreign bodies such as projectiles) may also be
critically important part of the autopsy.
performed.111 The following X-rays may also be
required: (a) All of the body area must be photographed
(a) Dental X-rays may be necessary for (b) The body must be examined and the
identification purposes deceased’s apparent age, height, weight,
sex and gender, head-hair style and length,
(b) Any skeletal system injury should be
nutritional status, muscular development, and
documented by X-ray. Skeletal X-rays may
colour of skin, eyes and hair (head, facial and
also record anatomic defects or surgical
body) must be examined and recorded
procedures. Check especially for fractures of
the fingers, toes and other bones in the hands (c) In babies, the head circumference, crown-rump
and feet length and crown-heel length should also be
(c) X-rays should be taken in gunshot cases to
aid in locating the projectile(s). Any projectile (d) The degree, location and fixation of rigor and
or major projectile fragment seen on an X-ray livor mortis should be recorded
must be recovered, photographed, recorded (e) Body warmth or coolness and state of
as an exhibit and secured. Other radio- preservation should be noted as should any
opaque objects (such as knife fragments) decomposition changes, such as skin slippage.
should also be documented with X-rays, The general condition of the body should
removed, photographed, recorded as exhibits, be evaluated and note taken of adipocere
and secured. If necessary for the purposes formation, maggots, eggs, pupae, or anything
of identification, metallic prostheses must be else that suggests the time or place of death
removed and examined, and any identifying
features recorded, photographed and secured. (f) With all injuries, their location (related to static
Any pacemakers must be removed, especially anatomic landmarks), size, shape, surrounds,
if cremation is to take place, as they will pattern, contents, colour, course, direction and
explode in a fire depth must be recorded. Injuries resulting from
therapeutic measures should be distinguished
(d) Skeletal X-rays can assist in determining the wherever possible from those unrelated to
age and developmental status of children and medical treatment
young adults.

This Section has been written on the basis that cross-sectional imaging or scanning such as CT scanning or MRI scanning is not available. If it is available, it
should be used, bearing in mind the discussion above. Some plain X-rays may still be required.

(g) In the description of firearm wounds, note the (j) Identify and label any foreign object that is
presence or absence of marginal abrasions, recovered, including its relationship to specific
lacerations or defects in the margins of the injuries. Foreign objects should be placed
wound, foreign contents within the wound, in a container that should be processed in
singeing or grease marking the margins of the accordance with established procedures to
wound, and soot and/or gunpowder stippling maintain the chain of custody. Do not scratch
or tattooing around the wound. If firearm the sides or tip of any projectiles. Photograph
discharge residue is present, this should be each projectile and large projectile fragment
photographed and preserved for analysis. with an identifying label, and secure them
It should be determined whether the bullet individually in a sealed, padded and labelled
wound is an entry or exit wound. If an entry container in order to maintain the chain of
wound is present and no exit wound is seen, custody112
the projectile must be found and secured or (k) Examine the head and external scalp, bearing
accounted for in mind that injuries may be hidden by the hair.
(h) All injuries should be photographed, and Shave hair where necessary. Check for fleas
labelled with the autopsy identification and lice, as these may indicate unsanitary
number on a scale that is oriented parallel conditions prior to death. Note any alopecia,
or perpendicular to the injury. Shave hair as this may be caused by malnutrition, heavy
where necessary to clarify an injury, and metals (e.g. thallium), drugs, or traction. Pull –
take photographs with a photographic scale do not cut – 20 representative head hairs and
both before and after shaving. Save all hair save them, as hair may be useful for detecting
removed from the site of the injury. Take some drugs and poisons. (It may also be of
photographs before and after washing the site value in stable isotope analysis)
of any injury. Wash the body only after any (l) Examine the teeth and note their condition.
blood or material that may have come from an This should be performed by a forensic
assailant has been collected and secured odontologist if possible. Record any that are
(i) Examine the skin. Note and photograph with a absent, loose or damaged, and record all
photographic scale any scars, areas of keloid dental work (e.g. restorations, fillings) using
formation, tattoos, prominent moles, areas of a dental identification system to identify each
increased or decreased pigmentation, and tooth (e.g., Annex 5). Check the gums for
anything distinctive or identifying, such as periodontal disease. Photograph dentures, if
birthmarks. Note any bruises and incise them any, and save them if the deceased’s identity
for delineation of their extent. Some, if not all is unknown. Check the inside of the mouth and
of them, should be excised for microscopic note any evidence of trauma, injection sites,
examination as this may be useful for assessing needle marks or biting of the lips, cheeks or
the time between injury and death. The head tongue. Note any articles or substances in the
and genital area should be checked with mouth. In cases of suspected sexual assault,
special care. Note any injection sites or save oral fluid, or get a swab for spermatozoa
puncture wounds. Note any bite marks; these and acid phosphatase evaluation. (Swabs
should be photographed to record the dental taken at the tooth-gum junction and samples
pattern, swabbed for saliva testing (before the from between the teeth provide the best
body is washed), and excised for microscopic specimens for identifying spermatozoa.) Also
examination. The evaluation of bite marks is take swabs from the oral cavity for seminal
highly contentious and they should also be fluid typing. Dry the swabs quickly with cool,
evaluated by a forensic dentist with training blown air if possible, and secure them in
and experience in such evaluation, if possible. clean plain-paper envelopes. (If rigor mortis
Note any burn marks and assess the possible prevents adequate examination, a complete
cause (e.g. burning rubber, a cigarette, oral examination may need to be deferred until
electricity, a blowtorch, acid, hot oil) by later, during the internal examination. At that
sampling for histology and other analysis if time, after subcutaneous disSection to expose
possible. Note any gunpowder residue on the structures of the neck and face to permit
the hands. Document this photographically better exposure of the oral cavity, the masseter
and save it for analysis. Excise any suspicious muscles may be divided)
areas for microscopic examination, as it
may be possible in some circumstances to
distinguish between burns caused by electricity
and those caused by heat or cold

Special packaging is needed to ensure that there has been no unauthorized interference with a specimen, as tampering with the packaging will be evident.
This level of security, provided the initial securing of the sample has been adequately documented, ensures at least that the sample has not been interfered with.
In addition, complete records must be kept of every time the sample changes hands.

40 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
(m) Examine the face and note if lividity, (q) Examine the external genitalia and note the
congestion and/or petechiae are present presence of any foreign material or semen.
(i) Examine the eyes and view the conjunctivae Note the size, location and number of any
of both the globes and the eyelids. Note abrasions or contusions. Note any injury to the
any petechiae in the upper or lower eyelids. inner thighs or peri-anal area. Look for peri-
Note any scleral icterus. Save contact lenses, anal burns
if any are present. Collect at least 1 ml of (r) In cases of suspected sexual assault, examine
vitreous humour from each eye all potentially involved orifices. A speculum
(ii) Examine the nose and ears and note any should be used to examine the vaginal walls.
evidence of trauma, haemorrhage, or Collect foreign hair by combing the pubic hair.
other abnormalities. Examine the tympanic Pull and save at least 20 of the deceased’s
membranes own pubic hairs, including roots. Aspirate fluid
from the vagina and/or rectum for analysis
(n) Examine all aspects of the neck externally and (e.g. acid phosphatase, blood group and
note any contusions, abrasions or petechiae. spermatozoa). Take swabs from the same
Describe and document injury patterns areas for seminal fluid typing. Dry the swabs
to help differentiate manual, ligature and quickly with cool, blown air if possible and
hanging strangulation. Examine the neck at secure them individually in clean plain-paper
the conclusion of the autopsy (after removal of envelopes
the brain and the thoracic contents), when the
blood has drained out of the area, as this limits (s) The back, the buttocks and extremities
the formation of artefactual bruising associated including wrists and ankles must be dissected
with dissection subcutaneously to look for deeper injuries. The
shoulders, elbows, hips and knee joints must
(o) Examine all surfaces of the extremities – arms, also be dissected subcutaneously, and possibly
forearms, wrists, hands, legs and feet – and further, to look for ligamentous and related
note any “defence” wounds. Dissect and injury.
describe any injuries. Note any bruises about
the wrists or ankles that may suggest restraints
such as handcuffs or suspension. Examine the
medial and lateral surfaces of the fingers, the
anterior forearms and the backs of the knees
for bruises
(p) Note any broken or missing fingernails. Take
fingerprints in all cases. (If it is not possible to
have fingerprints taken, explore all possible
avenues – e.g. removing the epidermal
“glove” of the fingers, or keeping the body so
that fingerprints can be taken in the following
days – to avoid the unacceptable prospect
of having to remove the fingers). Save
fingernail clippings and any under-nail tissue
(nail scrapings). Examine the fingernail and
toenail beds for evidence of objects having
been pushed beneath the nails. Nails can be
removed by dissecting the lateral margins and
proximal base, and then the under-surface of
the nails can be inspected. If this is done, the
hands must be photographed before and after
this dissection. Carefully examine the soles
of the feet, noting any evidence of beating.
Incise the soles to delineate the extent of any
injuries. Examine the palms and knees, looking
especially for glass shards or lacerations

4. Internal examination113 (c) Examine the abdomen and record the amount
of subcutaneous fat. Note the interrelationships
261. The internal examination should clarify and
between the organs. Trace any injuries before
augment the external examination insofar as
removing the organs. Note any fluid or blood
injuries are concerned, and should identify
present in the peritoneal cavity, and save it
and characterize any and all natural disease
until foreign objects have been accounted for
present. Remember to photograph the internal
manifestations of injury and any other (d) Remove, examine and record the quantitative
abnormalities identified. Ideally, photograph all information on the liver, spleen, pancreas,
organs and their cut surfaces. Before removing the kidneys and adrenal glands. Remove the
organs, obtain fluid specimens, e.g. blood, urine, gastrointestinal tract and examine the contents.
bile. Note (and photograph) any food present and
its degree of digestion. Save the contents of
(a) Be systematic in the internal examination. the stomach. If a more detailed toxicological
Perform the examination either by body regions evaluation is desired, the contents of other
or by systems, including cardiovascular, regions of the gastrointestinal tract may be
respiratory, biliary, gastrointestinal, saved. Examine the rectum and anus for burns,
reticuloendothelial, genitourinary, endocrine, lacerations, or other injuries. Locate and retain
musculoskeletal and central nervous systems. any foreign bodies present. Examine the aorta,
Record the volume, colour, consistency and inferior vena cava and iliac vessels
nature of any collections of fluid, and retain
(e) Examine the organs in the pelvis, including
samples for further investigation if required.
ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina,
Record the weight, size, shape, colour
prostate gland, seminal vesicles, urethra and
and consistency of each organ, and note
urinary bladder. Trace any injuries before
any neoplasia, inflammation, anomalies,
removing the organs. Remove these organs
haemorrhage, ischemia, infarcts, surgical
carefully so as not to injure them artefactually.
procedures, or injuries. Take sections of normal
Note any evidence of previous or current
and any abnormal areas of each organ for
pregnancy, miscarriage, or delivery, and any
microscopic examination. Take samples of
surgery. Save any foreign objects within the
any fractured bones for further radiographic
cervix, uterus, vagina, urethra, or rectum
and microscopic estimation of the age of the
fracture (f) Palpate the head and examine the external
and internal surfaces of the scalp, noting
(b) Examine the chest. Note any abnormalities
any trauma or haemorrhage. Note any skull
of the breasts. Record any rib fractures, noting
fractures. Remove the calvarium carefully and
whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation was
note epidural and subdural haematomas.
attempted. Before opening the chest, check
Quantify, estimate the age, and save any
for pneumothoraces. Record the thickness of
haematomas present. Remove the dura to
subcutaneous fat. Immediately after opening
examine the internal surface of the skull for
the chest, evaluate the pleural cavities and the
fractures. Remove the brain and note any
pericardial sac for the presence of blood or
abnormalities. (Preferably, retain the brain in
other fluid, and describe and quantify any fluid
fixative for some days prior to examination,
present. Save any fluid present until foreign
if possible, with the assistance of a
objects are accounted for. Note the presence
neuropathologist.) Dissect and describe any
of air embolism, characterized by frothy blood
injuries. Cerebral cortical atrophy, whether
within the right atrium and right ventricle. Trace
focal or generalized, should be specifically
any injuries before removing the organs. If
commented upon
blood is not available from other sites, collect
a sample directly from the heart. Examine the (g) Evaluate the cerebral vessels
heart, noting degree and location of coronary
artery disease or other abnormalities. Examine
the lungs, noting any abnormalities including
the presence of blood or other material in the
trachea and bronchi

Prior to the internal examination, preparations should be made for the sampling required for “Further Testing” (see subsection 5 below).
Some prosectors prefer to start with an examination of the head. This may be particularly appropriate where there are visible injuries to the neck.

42 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
(h) Examine the neck after the thoracic organs 263. After the autopsy has been completed, saved
and brain have been removed and the neck specimens must be recorded and listed in the
vessels have been drained. Remove the neck report. Label all specimens with the name of the
organs, including the tongue, under direct deceased, the autopsy identification number,
vision having reflected the skin of the front of the date and time of collection, the name of
the neck. Take care not to fracture the hyoid the prosector (if applicable), and the contents.
bone or thyroid cartilage. Dissect and describe Carefully secure all evidence and begin the chain
any injuries. Check the mucosa of the larynx, of custody record with the appropriate release
pyriform sinuses and oesophagus, and note forms. There should be agreement with the
any petechiae, oedema, or burns caused by investigating officer about how the samples will
corrosive substances. Note any articles or be stored and then transported to the laboratory
substances within the lumina of these structures. undertaking the analysis. The transport of such
Examine the thyroid gland. Separate and samples is usually a police responsibility exercised
examine the parathyroid glands, if they are following full chain of custody requirements which
readily identifiable ensure the security of the samples.
(i) Dissect the neck muscles, noting any (a) Large organ and tissue specimens:
haemorrhage. Dissect the muscles from, and Very occasionally, large organ and tissue
note any fractures of, the hyoid bone or thyroid specimens may be retained by the forensic
or cricoid cartilages. Consider also a posterior doctor for:
neck disSection if it is at all possible; there may
be soft tissue or skeletal injuries there (i) Better examination of an organ of particular
importance in the case (e.g. the brain)
(j) Examine the cervical, thoracic and lumbar
spine. Examine the vertebrae from their anterior (ii) Further examination by an expert, including
aspects and note any fractures, dislocations, one acting for an accused person
compressions or haemorrhages. Examine the (iii) Use as direct evidence.
vertebral bodies
The next of kin should be informed and
(k) In cases in which spinal injury is suspected, preferably their consent to the retention
dissect and describe the spinal cord. Examine obtained. If consent is not provided, and the
the cervical spine anteriorly and note any retention is still regarded as being necessary,
haemorrhage in the paravertebral muscles. then formal authorization of the retention
The posterior approach is best for evaluating should be obtained. Such retention must be
high cervical injuries. Open the spinal in accordance with local law and ethical
canal and remove the spinal cord. Make guidelines, and take into account the family’s
transverse sections every 0.5 cm and note any preferences for the burial or disposal of such
abnormalities. organs and tissues.
5. Further testing
(b) Histology: In all cases of potentially unlawful
262. The autopsy is a specialized medical investigation death, small representative samples of all
that includes the collection of samples, tissues major organs, including areas of normal and
and fluid for further testing.115 The specimens and any abnormal tissue, should be retained in
the manner of collecting them, together with their 10% formalin, processed histologically and
storage and transport and period of retention, stained with haematoxylin and eosin (and other
should be agreed with the laboratory that will be stains as indicated). The wet tissue, paraffin
undertaking the further testing. If there is no such blocks and slides should be kept indefinitely.
laboratory, samples, tissues and fluid should still Many forensic doctors are not trained to
be retained, as testing may be organized later. evaluate histology material. Arrangements
should be made for a suitable histopathologist,
preferably one with forensic training and
experience, to report on the histology.
This should be done in consultation: the
histopathologist needs to understand the history
and findings from the autopsy; and the forensic
doctor needs to understand the conclusions,
and any limitations, of the histopathologist

This Section relates to the collection of samples, tissues and fluid. It draws heavily on Section 5.6 “Special Investigations” of Forensic Autopsy: Manual for
Forensic Pathologists, UN Office on Drugs and Crime. This manual should be consulted for any further assistance required.

(c) Toxicology (including biochemistry): (vi) Stomach contents: Ideally, prior to
Communication with the testing laboratory removing the abdominal contents, the
is very important. The fluids and volumes stomach can be isolated by clamping or
required, and the tissue required (if any), will tying the lower oesophagus and duodenum.
vary from laboratory to laboratory. In all cases, After removal, the stomach should be
the site from which the specimen has been opened inside a large clean dish. After
obtained must be carefully recorded describing and photographing the contents,
(i) Blood: If possible, at least 10 ml, preferably submit them in secure, clean, screw-top glass
obtained from a peripheral site (e.g. the or plastic jars
femoral vein) prior to the commencement (vii) Hair and fingernails: These may be
of the autopsy. To avoid post collection useful in cases of heavy-metal poisoning
fermentation and putrefaction, add 1% or certain drugs. Obtain hair samples by
w/v sodium fluoride (NaF) to the collection plucking the hair, thereby including the root;
tube. If peripheral blood is not available, do not cut with scissors. Nail samples should
a central site (e.g. the heart) can be used. comprise the whole nail.
As a last resort, blood from a body cavity (d) Microbiology: This is not a routine autopsy
can be obtained, although this will almost investigation but can be useful if the collection
certainly be contaminated owing to leakage technique is good and samples are collected
from other structures (e.g. stomach or bowel in the early post-mortem period. Differentiating
contents, mucus, urine, pus or serous fluids) between pathogens and normal post-mortem
and thus the interpretation of the results will flora complicates the assessment of results.
be seriously compromised Possible samples include:
(ii) Urine:116 If possible, at least 10ml is (i) Blood, taken using a sterile needle and
usually obtained by direct needle puncture syringe under direct vision from the femoral
of the exposed bladder after the abdomen vein or artery (or other suitable vessel),
has been opened. Alternatively, a urinary accessed in a sterile manner prior to
catheter inserted via the urethra can be used commencing the autopsy
(iii) Vitreous Humour:117 2–3 ml can be (ii) Sampling a small piece of tissue (e.g. lung,
obtained by needle puncture of each globe. spleen) under conditions that are as sterile as
As it is relatively viscous, a 15- or 17-gauge possible
needle should be used
The specimen should be taken to the
(iv) Bile: Up to 10 ml microbiology laboratory without undue
(v) Tissue: Liver, muscle, kidney, brain, adipose delay. Otherwise, the specimen should
tissue (if possible, 100 mg of each), skin be kept in a refrigerator until (the earliest
site (e.g. if an insulin injection is suspected). possible) transfer.
The tissues should be placed in separate,
clean, glass or plastic jars without a fixative. (e) Entomology: The collection of appropriate
Consider freezing the samples if delays are samples of larvae, beetles, flies and other
anticipated before transport to the laboratory, insects on or in the body requires consultation
or before analysis If volatile substance with an entomologist. This includes eggs,
inhalation is suspected, an entire lung maggots and pupae as well as adult insects.
should be taken and sealed in a nylon bag. Samples may be useful for toxicological
(Polyethylene/plastic bags are permeable to analysis as well as helping to assess the
volatile substances) minimum post-mortem interval and/or possibly
to assess whether the body has been moved
some distance after death

These samples can be used for biochemical testing. Assessments of hyperglycaemia, ketosis, renal failure and/or dehydration (among other things) can sometimes
be made from analysis of these specimens.
Forensic Autopsy: Manual for Forensic Pathologists, UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

44 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
(f) Molecular/DNA testing: This is a 6. Concluding the cause of death
rapidly developing technological area.
265. At the end of his/her investigation of the death, it
The importance of liaising with the relevant
is a fundamental responsibility of the prosector to
laboratory cannot be overemphasized. Splenic
conclude the cause of death and identification of
tissue is one of the best organs for DNA
the deceased. It is a surprise for many that only in
recovery, although liver, muscle, kidney and
a small number of deaths can the cause of death
brain tissue may also be used. At least 2g
be determined from the autopsy findings alone
of tissue should be placed in a plastic tube
without any other information about the death.
without fixative or preservative. The specimen
In some jurisdictions, the forensic doctor is also
may then be frozen if it is not to be used
required to conclude the manner of death; in other
immediately. In the case of decomposed or
jurisdictions, the system leaves this conclusion to
skeletonized remains, a sample of bone may
judicial officers.
be submitted, often the mid shaft of the long
bones or teeth (without reparation or cavity), 266. The internationally accepted format for recording
or part of the shaft of the femur. Techniques the cause of death is set out by the WHO in “The
using less invasive samples such as cartilage, International Form of Medical Certificate of Cause
phalanges, fingernails, or toenails have been of Death”.118 The part of the form on cause of
developed in some centres death includes the following sections:
(g) In addition, other evidence that may
(a) Part I – includes diseases or conditions directly
need to be collected, recorded and secured
leading to death (immediate causes) and
antecedent causes (or underlying causes)
(i) All foreign objects, including projectiles,
(b) Part II – other significant conditions contributing
projectile fragments, pellets, knives and
to death, but not contributing to or causing the
fibres. Projectiles must be subjected to
conditions listed in Part I.
ballistic analysis
267. All forensic doctors should clearly understand
(ii) All clothes and personal effects of the
the following concepts involved in correctly
deceased, either worn by or in the
concluding the cause of death according to the
possession of the deceased at the time of
standard WHO format:
(iii) (Fingernails and under-nail scrapings (a) Underlying cause of death – defined as the
disease or injury that initiated the train of
(iv) Hair, foreign and pubic, in cases of
morbid events leading directly to death or the
suspected sexual assault
circumstances of the accident or violence that
(v) Head hair, in cases where the place of led to the fatal injury
death or location of the body prior to its
(b) Contributory cause(s) of death – other
discovery may be an issue.
significant diseases or conditions that
As mentioned at the beginning of this contributed to the death but not to the
Section on further testing, there must be disease(s) or condition(s) listed in the sequence
active discussion between the prosector in Part I as causing the death
and the investigator, and concrete decisions
(c) A common error is to list the mode of death,
made about the fate of all the specimens.
such as cardio-respiratory arrest, respiratory
264. After the autopsy, all organs not retained should failure or coma as the immediate cause of
be replaced in the body, and the body should death
be well embalmed to facilitate a second autopsy (d) If there is only one cause of death (e.g.
in case one is desired at some future point. Gunshot wound to the head; where death
Cremation of the remains will of course prevent a has apparently occurred rapidly at the scene)
second autopsy. this should be listed as I(a). In the terminology
above, this is both the immediate and the
underlying cause of the death
(e) If the cause of death is unknown even after
all investigations have been completed, then
it is correct to record it as “unknown” or

WHO, Strengthening civil registration and vital statistics for births, deaths and causes of death: Resource Kit, Geneva, 2013, available at:

7. The autopsy report 272. Notwithstanding the aide-memoire, it is crucial
that as part of the autopsy examination the
268. The autopsy report should be sufficiently
prosector should detect, photograph and record
comprehensive for another forensic doctor, at
in writing all injuries, whether old or recent.
another time and place (and supported by access
This means recording their site, size, shape,
to the photographs) to be in possession of all the
symmetry, surrounds, colour, contour, surface
relevant observations required in order to come to
(scaly, crusty, ulcerating), course, direction, depth,
his or her own conclusions about the death. At the
any associated bruising or oedema and any
end of the autopsy report should be a summary of
surrounding pallor/melanosis. Much torture will
the findings, including the results of special tests.
be missed if there is not an inquiring approach
In addition, the prosector should provide his/
to the autopsy. There should be a willingness to
her opinion about the identity of the deceased,
undertake subcutaneous disSection – it is a well-
and injuries and disease present, attributing any
known principle of forensic medicine that deeper
injuries to external trauma, therapeutic efforts,
injury is often not visible externally and must be
post-mortem change, or other ante-mortem, peri-
sought. Fractures and dislocations may occur in
mortem, or post-mortem causes. As mentioned
relatively unusual places for autopsy disSection —
above (see Paragraph 151), an opinion as to
often the limbs and the facial bones. Again,
how the injuries might have been caused, and
these will be missed if not searched for. For these
whether they caused or contributed to the death,
reasons, if whole-body cross-sectional scanning
should be provided. Reasonable, evidence-based
(e.g. CT scanning) is available, its use should be
conclusions about the circumstances of the death
very seriously considered, even if it means having
(including where appropriate the manner of death)
to transport the body to another location.
should be made. Finally, the formal cause of
death, as discussed above, should be provided 273. In the conclusions of the report, comments should
and explained. The full report should be given be made both on the overall pattern of the injuries
to the appropriate authorities and (except if they (the number and location of different injury types)
are implicated in the cause of the death) to the and what this might mean, and also on individual
deceased’s family. injuries with sufficient specificity to suggest their
8. Autopsy signs of possible torture
269. Torture, in brief, is the intentional infliction of
severe mental or physical pain or suffering by or
with the consent of State authorities for a specific

270. Forensic doctors are at the forefront of detecting
torture, and never more so than when undertaking
the autopsy of a person who has died in the
custody of the State.

271. This Section has extracted much of the information
in Table 2 (overleaf) from both the original
Minnesota Protocol and from the Istanbul
Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation
and Documentation of Torture and other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.120
It is intended as an aide-memoire for forensic
doctors who may be about to undertake the
autopsy of a potentially unlawful death where
the deceased has been, or may have been,
in the custody of the State. The annex is not a
comprehensive list of all the signs of torture or
mistreatment that could occur. In particular it does
not cover the myriad effects of neglect (including
deprivation of food and water) and withholding
medical care.

At: Art. 1 of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as: “any act by which
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or
a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person,
or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a
public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

46 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Table 2: Torture Techniques and Related Findings


Acute (single episode) and chronic Abrasions, bruises, lacerations, scars; fractures (and, if multiple,
(repeated episodes of) injury some at different stages of healing), especially in unusual
locations, which have not been treated

Skull fractures, scalp bruising, laceration, cerebral contusions
and other intracranial manifestations of trauma; after time,
cerebral cortical scars and atrophy

Consider cervical spine trauma when facial trauma present

Assess nasal bone alignment, crepitation, deviation of the
septum; consider plain X-ray, CT scan for the septum. Assess for
rhinorrhoea and orbital plate/crista galli fracture

Consider fractures of the temporo-mandibular and laryngeal
structures. Assess these as part of a detailed neck and facial
examination following subcutaneous dissection. At the same
time also look for tooth avulsions and fractures; dislocated
dental fillings; broken dental prosthesis; bruised tongue; lesions
from forcible insertion of objects into the mouth, electric shocks
or burns

Specific injuries may disclose a shape suggestive of the
causative object, e.g. tramline bruising from rods, truncheons or

Consequences of blunt force injuries to the orbit, including
“blow out” fractures (and/or loss of integrity of the globe),
conjunctival haemorrhage, lens dislocation, subhyaloid
haemorrhage, retrobulbar haemorrhage, retinal haemorrhage
Suspension by the wrists (“La bandera”)121 Bruises or scars around the wrists. A chronic linear zone around
a wrist or ankle, with few hairs or follicles, is most likely to be
a cicatricial alopecia from the prolonged application of a tight
ligature. There is no differential diagnosis of spontaneous skin
disease for such an appearance
Suspension by the neck or arms (e.g., Bruising or scars at the site of binding; prominent lividity in
“cross suspension” – spreading the arms lower extremities; neck trauma (often minimal but may include
and tying them to a horizontal bar; fractures to larynx)
“butchery” – tying the hands upwards
together, or one by one)
Suspension with the feet upwards and Bruises or scars around the ankles; ligamentous damage,
head downwards (“reverse butchery”, dislocations to ankles or other joints
Suspension from a ligature tied around Abrasions, bruises, scars around the wrist(s); dislocation of
the elbows or wrists with the arms behind shoulder joint, or ligamentous damage, muscular tears and/or
the back; or the forearms bound together necrosis to upper arm or pectoral muscles; myoglobinuric renal
behind the back with the elbows flexed damage or failure
to 90 degrees and the forearms tied to a
horizontal bar (“Palestinian hanging”)
Suspension of a victim by the flexed knees Abrasions, bruises, and/or lacerations, scars on the anterior
from a bar passed below the popliteal forearms and backs of the knees; abrasions, bruises to the
region, usually while the wrists are tied to wrists and/or ankles
the ankles (“parrot perch”, “Jack”, “pau de
arara”) (can lead to cruciate ligament tears)

Note that these various forms of suspension, which may last from between 15 and 20 minutes to hours or days, are often accompanied by various
forms of beatings and can result in serious systemic consequences.


Forcible immersions of head in water often Signs of drowning/near drowning; faecal or other debris in
contaminated with urine, faeces, vomit or the mouth, pharynx, trachea, oesophagus or lungs. In survival,
other impurities (“wet submarine”, “pileta”, pneumonia
Many other forms of positional torture, Fractures, dislocations, injuries to ligaments, tendons, nerves
tying or restraining victims in contorted, and blood vessels, both recent and old
hyperextended or other unnatural positions
Blunt abdominal trauma while lying on Abdominal bruises, back injuries, injuries to abdominal viscera
a table with the upper half of the body including rupture. Intramuscular, retroperitoneal, intra-abdominal
unsupported (“operating table”, “el haemorrhage
Hard slap of palm to one or both ears Rapid increase of pressure in ear canals causes ruptured ear
(“teléfono”) drum(s); after time, these will appear scarred. There may be
injuries to the external ear. Use otoscope
Whipping Multiple depigmented, linear hypertrophic scars surrounded by
a zone of hyperpigmentation are most likely the consequence of
whipping. Exclude plant dermatitis
Forcible removal of a fingernail or toenail Acutely, laceration and bruising to the nail bed and skin of the
distal phalanx; other injuries associated with restraint. Later, an
overgrowth of tissue may be produced at the nail fold forming a
Lichen planus is the relevant differential diagnosis, and this is
usually accompanied by other skin lesions. Fungal infections
produce thickened yellowish crumbling nails
Burns Cigarette, hot objects acutely result in characteristic burns (after
time, these cause atrophic scars with narrow hypertrophic
and hyper-pigmented periphery. Spontaneously occurring
inflammatory processes lack this characteristic marginal zone);
when the nail matrix is burnt, subsequent growth produces
striped thin deformed nails, sometimes broken up in longitudinal
Electric shock (wires connected to a Electric shock to hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears, nipples, mouth,
source of electricity; e.g. “cattle prod”/“la lips or genitalia. Gels or water often used to prevent detectable
picana”: pointed electric instrument, metal burns. The appearance is of burns and depends upon the
on the tip) age of the injury. Immediately: red spots, vesicles and/or
black exudate. Within a few weeks: circular reddish macular
scars. At several months: small, white, reddish or brown or
hyperpigmented spots (picana)
Heated metal skewer inserted into the anus Peri-anal or rectal burns
(“black slave”)
Repeated blunt trauma to the soles of the May be missed on cursory external examination; even if signs
feet (and occasionally the hands or hips) are present, swelling and not bruising may be the dominant
(“falanga”, “falaka”, “bastinado”) appearance. Closed compartment syndrome may lead to
muscle necrosis (aseptic), or vascular compromise of toes or
even the distal foot. Fractures of carpal and metatarsals can
occur. The aponeurosis and tendons may be torn. After time,
irregular scars involving the skin may occur
Sexual assault Sexually transmitted disease; pregnancy; injuries to the breasts
or genitalia

All the signs of penetration of vagina, anus or mouth and their
differential diagnoses

48 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
E. Detailed Guidelines on the Analysis of Skeletal Remains
1. Introduction 3. Preparing skeletal remains for analysis
274. These Guidelines describe the process to be 276. The importance of properly recovering the remains
followed in the analysis of skeletal remains. cannot be overemphasized. Failures in recovery
further complicate an already complicated task,
2. Infrastructure for the analysis of skeletal remains and may render it impossible to produce reliable
275. The analysis of skeletal remains requires and valid conclusions concerning all of the issues
infrastructure, in particular a laboratory. In terms to be addressed in the analysis of the remains.
of security, chain of custody and biosecurity,
277. After receiving the remains at the laboratory, and
the laboratory is set up in the same way as
following all the steps relating to chain of custody
a mortuary. The laboratory should be used
and documentation, the forensic anthropologist
exclusively for the analysis of skeletal remains
must establish:
as ordinarily it takes longer than an autopsy
(sometimes days or even weeks) for the analysis (a) Whether or not the remains are human
to be completed. The following list sets out some
of the basic conditions required. These will vary (b) Whether the case is one of medico-legal
depending on the number of cases under analysis interest, and not one relating to a historical or
at any one time: pre-historical context
(c) What is the minimum number of individuals
(a) Sufficient space to place the tables where the represented by the remains.
remains will be analysed. The tables should
be large enough to lay out skeletal remains 278. In cases of very fragmented remains it may be
anatomically difficult to establish macroscopically whether or
not the remains are human. If so, histological,
(b) Good lighting genetic or chemical methods should be used.
(c) Good ventilation
279. In some cases it is critical to establish if the
(d) Areas for the deposit and storage of remains remains are of medico-legal interest, as they
and associated evidence (refrigeration is not could date from historical or prehistoric times. In
required for skeletonized remains) those situations, the method of disposal of the
(e) Cleaning area (with access to running water) remains, the associated objects (e.g. stone tools)
found with the remains and their position inside
(f) Photography area
the grave may play a key role in the assessment.
(g) Area for taking samples for genetic analysis Also, certain features of the bones (e.g. strong
(this needs to take into account potential cross- muscle insertions) and teeth (extreme dental wear)
contamination issues) may indicate their historical nature. Such features
(h) Access to plain X-rays need to be interpreted with care, however, as
contemporary populations may also show such
(i) The availability of exhaust air filtration to
features. The presence of dental restorations will,
address odours and the accidental dispersal of
obviously, indicate a more contemporary context.
infectious materials, spores, etc.
(j) When the body is in an advanced stage of 280. If the remains have arrived at the laboratory
decomposition, a special room for removing commingled, a proper strategy for sorting them
flesh to allow the bones to be examined. is required in order to establish what is called the
Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) present.
Possible approaches include: pair-matching,
articulation, process of elimination, osteometric
comparison, taphonomy and, finally, genetic

281. Once established as a case of forensic interest,
the remains should be prepared in the following

(a) Inventory: Which bones and teeth are
present, the condition of these individual
elements, and whether there is more than one
individual (identified by repetition of same

(b) Plain X-rays: Any bone showing signs of (e) Reconstruction: The bones presenting
damage, for example by gunshots, must be peri- or post-mortem trauma may have to be
X-rayed for metallic objects invisible to the reconstructed. Special glue, which allows the
naked eye. Chemical tests can be used to fragments to be separated without damage in
identify the presence of lead or copper, e.g. the event of an error, should be used.
from projectiles. X-rays are also very useful for 4. Establishing a biological profile of the remains
evaluating bone pathology
282. Once the remains have been prepared, the
X-rays should be taken before any cleaning
anthropologist compiles the biological profile of
of the remains occurs. This is particularly
the individual: the assessment and determination
important with partially decomposed remains,
of age, sex, ancestry and stature.
where commingling might not be detected
upon exhumation 283. Age: This is estimated within a range, and is
(c) Cleaning/sampling: If their condition not exact. The older the individual, the wider the
allows, all the bones and teeth should be range. From the foetal stage to approximately
washed with simple running water and 25 years of age, the human skeleton undergoes
no other product. A trap must be in place continuous development and growth. Several
to capture any material that might be indicators are evaluated, including dentition
dislodged by the water. In a case of severely development, length of long bones and the
decomposed skeletal remains, however, appearance and fusion of epiphyses in early
washing can be detrimental. A brush with soft ages; and, in later stages of development, the
bristles, such as a toothbrush, may be used pubic symphysis and the morphology of the sternal
to remove dirt, special care being taken with end of the fourth rib. Once development stops,
worn bones, such as the epiphyses of the long degenerative changes begin to appear, especially
bones and the faces of the pubic symphysis. in the joints, such as signs of osteoarthritis (e.g.
Teeth not permanently attached to the alveolar osteophytes).
bone should be removed and washed
separately, to prevent their loss 284. Sex: The sexual dimorphism in the skeleton
is seen after puberty, so before that period
In cases where the remains are not completely determination of sex is not very reliable. In older
reduced to bone, and soft tissue is still individuals, there are two main ways to determine
attached, a non-chemical method should be the sex:
used for cleaning, under strict control. Such
a process shall only be undertaken once (a) Morphological traits in specific areas of the
the forensic pathologist has evaluated and pelvis and skull, and
properly documented the remains and the (b) Metric assessments, which involve
necessary samples have been collected. Once measurements of various dimensions of limb
the remains have been washed, they should bones and articular surfaces
be allowed to dry, preferably away from light
and without exposing the bones to the sun. A In cases where the remains are fragmented or
fan can be used to speed up the process no bones diagnostic of sex are available, a
genetic analysis (amelogenin) could also be
(d) Sampling: The main reason for taking applied to determine the sex. Determining the
samples when analysing skeletal remains sex (amelogenin) is undertaken as standard in
is to perform a genetic analysis that could the genetic analysis of bones.
help in identification. This procedure must
be coordinated, as sampling methods vary 285. Ancestry: Ancestry refers to the geographic
according to the requirements of the DNA region and/or the ancestral origin of a particular
laboratory. Depending on the condition of population group. It is assessed by evaluating
the skeleton and the number of individuals specific traits in the skeleton, mainly in the skull,
represented, the anthropologist has to decide that can be present or absent, or present to some
how many samples to take. This decision is degree. At the same time, several measurements
more complicated in commingled cases, and can be taken in the skull and post-cranial skeleton.
must take into account the wider strategy on Software is available to process the measurements
how to analyse such complex cases. Usually, and produce an assessment of the ancestry of the
two or three healthy teeth and a sufficient skeleton under analysis, when appropriate.
quantity of a long bone, such as a femur
or tibia, are enough for the sampling of a
complete individual skeleton. (It is preferable
for such sampling to take place before the
teeth and bones are cleaned, to avoid new

50 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
286. Stature: The stature of a skeleton is usually 289. Forensic taphonomy is a field that studies
estimated following one of two methods: the various changes to the human body after
death. On some occasions this may enable
(a) Measuring the height/length of some specific post-mortem changes observed in the skeleton to
bones (skull, spine, femur, tibia and talus), be understood (e.g. action of scavengers, plant
adding those measurements and correcting for activity), but it will generally not provide any
the missing soft tissue, or degree of certainty about the time since death. In
(b) Measuring one complete long bone (such as that sense, archaeological dating methods, using
the femur, tibia or humerus) or the combination objects associated with the remains, such as coins
of two such bones (femur and tibia ideally), or cartridge case, may provide a better general
and applying a regression formula to the result estimation.
(c) Regression formulae are also available for 290. Methods used in the analysis of skeletal remains
fragmented bones. In all cases, information on must meet standards accepted by the scientific
sex and ancestry are required in order to select community. In the event that indicators and
the correct reference table to use. databases relying on local data collection are
5. Remaining analysis and report used, they must be endorsed by publication in
reputable peer-reviewed publications.
287. After a biological profile has been established, the
analysis continues with the following steps: 291. All analysis must be properly documented, with
photos, drawings, notes and specific forms. A
(a) Analysis of any indicator of ante-mortem precise record of the samples taken from the
trauma, pathological conditions or remains must be kept, the samples must be
skeletal variations (which may or may not be correctly labelled and records of security and the
symptomatic) that can provide information chain of custody kept. If the remains are to be
about the cause and circumstances of the buried before formal identification, the process
death or specific information leading to must be properly documented. This includes
identification recording the exact location of the disposal of the
(b) Analysis of possible post-mortem remains, proper labelling of the container holding
changes in the bones, due to taphonomic the remains, and appropriate notation on the
processes (see Paragraph 289) that could chain-of-custody form.
affect the body after death. It is critical to
distinguish these changes from the injuries 292. The final forensic anthropology report must include
relating to peri-mortem trauma all information relating to the reception of the
remains; procedures followed for the analysis;
(c) Dental analysis, to contribute to age estimation samples taken and to whom they were given;
and possibly even identification. (This should and the conclusions and any recommendations.
be undertaken by a forensic odontologist if (In some circumstances it may be necessary or
possible.) desirable to include forms and diagrams). This
288. Establishing the period of time since death report must be integrated with those produced by
is difficult, especially in cases of skeletal remains. other specialists in order to present to the authority
In the case of historical or prehistoric remains, an integrated forensic report.
several methods of dating have been developed.
For cases of forensic interest, covering periods
from a few days to up to 30 or 40 years, there
is no scientific method, relying on an analysis
of bones or teeth, to establish whether a person
died one, five, or ten years ago. However, new
studies of radiocarbon are being applied in some
specific contexts. Circumstantial information and
other material with the skeletal remains, or in
some instances even satellite imagery, may help to
establish when the events (or burial) took place.

VI. Glossary

Abrasion Superficial injury involving the skin; often called a scratch, scrape or graze.
Accountable Subject to a system that is designed to ensure the proper discharge of responsibility by a
person or institution.
Alveolar bone In relation to teeth, the sockets holding the teeth.
Ancestry In relation to forensic anthropology, the biological heritage of the remains.
Ante-mortem data Data about a named individual while alive that can be used to compare with post-mortem
data collected from the body, usually for the purpose of identifying the body.
Artefact Artificial product. In relation to a dead body, a change (for example resulting from
resuscitation or post-mortem damage) imitating pathology, disease or injury occurring in
Autopsy In this document, the examination of a dead body involving its external and internal
examination and incorporating the results of special tests (including radiology). The internal
examination involves, but is not limited to, examining the contents of the cranium, chest and
abdomen. Further disSection may occur in particular circumstances.
Biological profile A term used in forensic anthropology to refer to the evaluation of skeletonized human
remains to make conclusions about the age, sex, ancestry and stature of those remains, to
aid in their identification.
Bruise An injury characterized by extravasation of blood into the surrounding tissues.
Cause of death The underlying cause (the disease, condition or circumstance initiating the chain of
events resulting in death), possibly proceeding through more immediate (or proximate)
causes, concludes the logically linked statements that constitute the cause of death. In
concluding the cause of death according to the WHO format, which is the conventional
and internationally understood format, the most immediate cause is stated first, and the
underlying cause(s) stated last. Thus, the cause of death of a young man who was shot in
the chest resulting in massive haemorrhage as the bullet passed through the heart and the
lungs should be recorded as: I(a) Haemorrhage (due to) I(b) Perforation of the heart and
lungs (due to) I(c) Gunshot wound to the chest.

Part II of the cause of death statement includes the disease(s), condition(s) or
circumstance(s), if any, that contribute to the death, but NOT to the underlying cause listed
in I. The cause of death is Parts I and II considered together.

Note: the Cause of death is distinguished from the Manner of death (q.v.) and the Mode of
death (q.v.).
Chain of custody A process enabling the complete history of the custody of an exhibit to be tracked and
(of an exhibit) recreated; that is, who has had care and control of the exhibit from the time it was first
secured to the present.
Commingled remains Usually in relation to skeletal remains, the mixing of the remains of two or more individuals,
for example in a mass grave.
Contamination The location on a person or object of material, whether obvious or not, from another
source. Such contamination can be useful in forensically linking a suspect to a crime scene;
or it can be confusing and damaging to justice (e.g. DNA contamination).
Continuity See Chain of custody (above).

52 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Death The irreversible cessation of all vital functions, including brain activity. Death is “natural”
when it is caused solely by disease and/or the ageing process. It is “unnatural” when
its causes are external, such as intentional injury (homicide, suicide), negligence, or
unintentional injury (death by accident).
Decomposition The process of dissolution of the body after death. In the early hours and days after death,
(post mortem) some of the changes can be mistaken for injuries (e.g. signs of putrefaction such as
swelling and purplish discolouration of the face and body).
Deceased Depending upon the context, dead, or a dead person.
Defence injuries/ Injuries/wounds sustained by a victim resulting from attempts at self-defence during an
wounds assault.
Disaster Victim The scene, mortuary-based and related processes (e.g. ante-mortem data collection,
Identification (DVI) reconciliation) of dealing with a multiple fatality event to ensure that individuals are correctly
identified. Undertaken in accordance with Interpol guidelines.
Epiphysis(es) The end(s) of particularly, but not only, long bones; the process of the fusion of the
epiphysis(es) with the shaft of the long bone allows conclusions to be drawn about the age
of the person.
Ethics The study of what is right and wrong. Professional ethics concentrates on the behaviour and
attitudes of members of a particular profession.
Exhibits Physical evidence thought to be relevant to the investigation of a crime or death that are
labelled, recorded as exhibits and kept securely so that they cannot be interfered with or
Femur The thigh bone.
Fingerprints (latent) Fingerprints present on a surface requiring a technical process to make them visible.
Forensic Relating to the courts or, more generally, the law.
Forensic The examination of human skeletal material to answer medico-legal questions including
anthropology those of identification.
Forensic The use of the skills employed in the study of ancient remains and objects for the purposes
archaeology of the law, usually in relation to the excavation, recovery and evaluation of scenes and
Forensic ballistics/ These two categories of forensic science are often used interchangeably; in this document,
Firearms and they refer to the examinations leading to conclusions of forensic value about gunshot
toolmarks wounds and the projectiles recovered from them.
Forensic doctor For the purposes of this document, a certified medical doctor who is authorized to perform
forensic post-mortem examinations.
Forensic entomology The study of insects in a forensic setting, most often in forensic pathology as an indicator of
the minimum time since death.
Forensic odontology The study of dentistry in relation to the law, in particular in the investigation of death,
especially for the identification of human remains.
Forensic medicine The principles and practice of medicine as applied to the needs of the law and the courts.
Forensic pathologist The medical specialist concerned with the investigation of deaths in which the law has an
interest; in this document, used interchangeably with the term forensic doctor.
Forensic science The application of the principles and practice of science to the needs of the law and the
Forensic toolmarks The examination of marks left on exhibits and the comparison of these with possible
causative implements/tools/weapons; in some laboratories this is combined with the
assessment of firearms.
Forensic toxicology The science of drugs and poisons applied to the needs of the law and the courts.

Fracture Break; a discontinuity in the cortex of a bone; sometimes used in relation to a cartilaginous
structure such as a costal cartilage or thyroid cartilage.
Histology The study of the microscopic structure of tissues (histology) in a diseased state
(histopathology) (histopathology).
Human identification In this document, the attachment of the correct name to a dead body.
Human remains In this document, synonymous with deceased person or dead body, whether the body is
freshly dead, decomposing or skeletonized.
Humerus The upper arm bone.
Immediate cause of The disease, condition or complication, resulting from the underlying or an intermediate
death cause, that immediately precedes death.
Inventory List.
Laceration A tear or split in the skin or other organ or soft tissue due to blunt force.
Livor mortis, lividity The post-mortem phenomenon of blood settling under the influence of gravity.
(post mortem)
Manner of death The summary of the circumstances of the death; thus: homicide, suicide, accident, natural
or undetermined.
Minimum Number of Forensic anthropological term used in relation to the assessment of commingled remains
Individuals (MNI) and referring to how many individuals, as a minimum, are represented in the commingled
remains being examined.
Mode of death The pathophysiological process by which a person died (e.g. haemorrhage, respiratory
failure, cardiac failure, multi-organ failure, septicaemia). Its use alone is not sufficient to
complete the cause of death properly in the internationally accepted WHO format. See
also “Cause of death”.
Mortuary (morgue) The place for storing, keeping and looking after the dead until final disposal or interment;
includes the autopsy room; hospital for the dead.
Ordnance Relating to artillery, large guns.
Osteophytes Usually small growths of extra bone associated with degenerative, osteoarthritic changes in
the joints.
Peri-mortem Around the time of death. This term is often used in forensic anthropology in relation to
injuries because, once the remains have skeletonized, an injury inflicted shortly before
death will look identical to the same injury inflicted shortly after death.
Petechiae (petechial Pinpoint or “dot-like” haemorrhages. Some forms occur in life, others can occur after death.
Photolog The list of all photographs taken with related data, e.g. the name of the photographer, the
time the photograph was taken and the place where it was taken.
Photo markers Markers with numbers and letters visible in photographs enabling later identification of the
photographs and the items shown in them.
Postcranial skeleton The entire skeleton apart from the skull.
Post-mortem changes A term that encompasses all the natural changes that can occur to a dead body.
Post-mortem data Data obtained from the dead body to compare with data obtained about a named
individual while alive (ante-mortem data), usually for the purposes of identifying the dead
Post-mortem In this document, examination of the body after death not including an internal
examination examination. (In this document, an examination of a dead body that includes an internal
examination is an autopsy.)
Prosector The authorized medical practitioner/forensic doctor undertaking the autopsy and preparing
the report.

54 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Pubic symphysis The part of the pubic bone that joins with the other pubic bone at the front of the pelvis.
Reference sample A standard sample against which another sample can be compared.
Reliability The reliability of a result is its stability when the test is undertaken by different observers in
different places at different times.
Responsibility The duty to perform a task or function properly.
Reviewability One of the aims of the autopsy is that it (and indeed the whole death investigation) should
be conducted in such a way that another forensic doctor or pathologist at another time can
independently come to his/her own conclusions about the death. This enables conclusions
to be drawn about the reliability of the autopsy and the conclusions arising from it.
Rigor mortis Post-mortem stiffening of the body.
Sample (or exhibit) The loss or alteration of the characteristics of a sample (or exhibit) that it possessed at the
degradation time it came into existence, was found, or was collected. In a forensic context, this means
that the sample’s ability to contribute to the investigation is reduced.
Security (of exhibits) The process, including documentation, whereby an exhibit is secured such that it is evident
whether or not it has been accessed, and if so, when and by whom.
Sexual dimorphism The two different shapes of some bones, associated with males and females (which only
becomes readily apparent after puberty).
Skeletal remains The bony remains of the dead body after all soft tissue has been lost following
Stature Height.
Taphonomy The study of all the (usually natural) processes that can affect a dead body.
Theodolite A precision survey instrument which simultaneously measures angles in the horizontal and
vertical planes. Modern versions (such as a total station theodolite) include electronic
readers as well as distance measuring devices.
Tibia The larger of the two lower leg bones.
Transparency (of Degree to which processes can be evaluated externally because their details are available
processes) to be examined.
Underlying cause of The disease or condition initiating the chain of events leading to death (often with
death intervening intermediate and immediate – or proximate – causes of death).
Validity In relation to a measure or a result, the extent to which the measure or result reflects the truth
of the phenomenon.
Wound A significant discontinuity in the surface of a structure, most often in the skin, e.g. incised
wound, stab wound, gunshot would, laceration. It does not include a bruise or an


VII. Annex 1
Annex 1. Anatomical Sketches
The legend for the anatomical sketches contained in Annex 1 is set out below.*

(i) Whole body – front (ii) Whole body – back
Figure (i) Figure (ii)

Figure (iii)

(iii) Whole body – side (R) (iv) Whole body – side (L)
Figure (iv)


Figure (v)

Figure (vi)

(v) Head – front and back (vi) Head – side (L & R)


Figure (vii)
Figure (viii)

(vii) Hands – back and palm (L & R) (viii) Forearms – (R & L)



Figure (ix)

Figure (x)

(ix) Feet – soles and dorsum (R & L) (x) Whole body skeleton


Figure (xi)
Figure (xii)

(xi) Skull – front and back (xii) Skull – side (L & R)


Figure (xiii)
Figure (xiv)

(xiii) Skull – base and top (xiv) Skull – inside

Figure (xvi)

Figure (xv)

(xv) Genitalia – male** (xvi) Genitalia – female**

Figure (xvii)

Figure (xviii)

(xvii) Extended neck – front and larynx (xviii) Extended neck – side (L & R)

Figure (xix)

(xix) Neck – Section (R & L) (xx) Spine – three sections
i C1 i
2 ii
1 1 ii
3 3
iii iii
2 2 iv

5 4
v 6

7 6 xii 5
vi vi S1
7 2
1 vii vii 4
T1 Li
3 3 8 5
2 Ti 2
3 T1 ii 2
ii ii
4 4 4 2 iii
3 iii iii
iii 3
iv iv
5 5 4 iv
4 iv
5 7
5 4
6 6 vi
vi 6 v
6 8
7 5
7 7 vii 9
7 viii
viii 10 ix S1
T1 9 2
T1 ix 11
T2 10
T2 T2 L1
11 5
T3 2
xi Coc1
Figure (xx)

4 12
T3 T3

Figure (xxii)
Figure (xxi)

(xxi) Brain – surfaces (xxii) Brain – slices




midbrain pons low pons medulla

(xxiii) Brain – coronal slices
Figure (xxiii)


* The copyright for the sketches and other annexes is held by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Australia, which has kindly agreed to
their reproduction in the Protocol. The contribution of the Institute’s Deputy Director, David Ranson, is also gratefully acknowledged.
** Trans people who have had genital surgery, and intersex people with certain sex characteristic variations, will often have genitals that are
not easily categorized into male or female genitalia. The examiner should accurately depict the bodies of trans and intersex persons that do not
match typical male or female diagrams.
Figure (i)
Figure (i)
Whole body – front

58 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (ii)
Figure (ii)
Whole body – back

Figure (iii)

Figure (iii)
Whole body – side (R)


60 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (iv)
Figure (iv)
Whole body – side (L)


Figure (v)
Figure (v)
Head – front and back

62 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (vi) Figure (vi)
Head – side (L & R)



Figure (vii)
Hands – Back and Palm (L & R) Figure (vii)



64 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (viii) Figure (viii)
Forearms – (R & L)



Figure (ix)
Figure (ix)
Feet – Soles and Dorsum (R & L)



66 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (x) Figure (x)
Whole Body Skeleton

Figure (xi)
Figure (xi)
Skull – Front and Back

68 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xii) Figure (xii)
Skull – Side (L & R)



Figure (xiii)
Skull – Base and Top
Figure (xiii)

70 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xiv) Figure (xiv)
Skull – Inside

Figure (xv)
Genitalia – Male
Figure (xv)

72 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xvi) Figure (xvi)
Genitalia – Female

Figure (xvii)
Extended Neck – Front and Larynx
Figure (xvii)

74 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xviii) Figure (xviii)
Extended Neck – Side (L & R)



Figure (xix)
Neck – Section (R & L)
Figure (xix)

1 1

2 2

3 3

4 4

5 5

6 6

7 7

T1 T1

T2 T2

T3 T3


76 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xx)
Spine – Three Sections







1 vii

2 Ti 2


3 iii

4 6
5 7
6 vii

vii 9
7 viii

viii 10 ix
ix 11

T2 12
x x

T3 xi 2



Figure (xx)
Spine – Three Sections continued

i C1 i
2 ii
3 3
iii iii


5 4
v 6

7 6 xii 5
vi vi S1
7 2
vii vii 4
T1 Li
8 5
Ti Ti
3 T1 ii 2
ii ii
4 2 iii
iii iii
iii 3
iv iv
4 iv
5 4
vi 6 v
7 5
vii 9
viii 10 ix
9 2
ix 11
11 5
xi Coc1
Figure (xx)

4 12

78 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xxi)
Brain – Surfaces
Figure (xxi)





midbrain pons low pons medulla

Figure (xxii)
Brain – Slices
Figure (xxii)

80 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Figure (xxiii)
Brain – Coronal Slices Figure (xxiii)


Annex 2. Case Details Form
VII. Annex 2

Case Details:
Case No. / UR No. ............................................. Place of examination......................................................
Subject’s name ..................................................... .................................................................................
Address............................................................... Address ......................................................................
......................................................................... .................................................................................
Age ….… D.O.B. ……/……/…..… M / F........... Tel................................ Fax ........................................
E-mail .........................................................................

Consent: Obtained from ...........................................................................................................................

Time called .............................. hrs Time of arrival........................... hrs Time of departure ………… hrs

(original call-out) …… / …… / …… at scene ……. / …….. / …… from scene …… / …… / ……

Time of commencement............... hrs Time of completion.................... hrs Time of completion ……… hrs

of examination …… / …… / …… of examination …… / …… / …… of notes …… / …… / ……

Name Status Name Status
…………………………. …………………..... …………………….. ……………………..
…………………………. …………………..... …………………….. ……………………..
…………………………. …………………..... …………………….. ……………………..

Circumstances / History: Clothing:

(a) From patient....................................................... ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................
(b) From others (police, ambulance, family, friends, others) Jewellery:
Name of informant ................................................. ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................
........................................................................... ........................................................................

Specimens: Specimens handed to:

..................................... ................................. Recipient name.......................................................

..................................... ................................. Status...................................................................

..................................... ................................. Recipient signature..................................................

Time ……. hrs Date ……… / ……… / …………

82 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Past medical history: Medical examination:

.............................................................................................. Pulse rate:........................................
.............................................................................................. B.P.: ...............................................
.............................................................................................. Temp.: ........................................ °C
Drugs/Medication...................................................................... Ht:
.............................................................................................. Wt:............................................ kg
Morphometry ...................................

General medical examination: .....................................................





Record of findings: X-rays Photography Video




Name................................................................. Signature ....................................................................

Professional address .............................................. Time …………… hrs Date …… / …… / …….

......................................................................... Tel ................................... Fax ....................................

Notes on wound description:

1. In describing a wound consider the following 3. All descriptions of wounds and injuries should be
features: made by reference to the subject in the standard
anatomical positions.
Site Colour Age
Size Contours Borders 4. The use of terms such as Superior, Inferior, Anterior
Shape Course Classification and Posterior should refer to the subject in standard
Surrounds Contents Depth anatomical position.
2. Ensure descriptions are consistent with the following 5. The measured position of wounds on the body
definitions: should be located by reference to fixed bony
Abrasion – A superficial scraping injury of the body
surface with or without bleeding 6. The accurate classification of a wound type has
major significance for determining injury causation.
Bruise – Leakage of blood from blood vessels
discolouring the tissues of the body 7. An accurate Forensic Medical examination should
assist in the reconstruction of the events in which the
Incision – A cutting-type injury that severs tissues in a
injury occurred.
clean and generally regular fashion
Laceration – A tear or split in tissues

Annex 3. Firearm Wound Chart
VII. Annex 3

Name .................................................................................. Case No. ....................................................


1 2 3 4 5 6
Ent Ex Ent Ex Ent Ex Ent Ex Ent Ex Ent Ex

1. Location of the wound
Arm: Right
Arm: Left
Leg: Right
Leg: Left
2. Size of wound
3. Centimetres from wound to:
Top of head
Right of midline
Left of midline
4. Firearm residue
On skin
Not seen
5. Direction of projectile through body
To right
To left
6. Projectile recovered
Probable calibre

84 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Annex 4. Stab Wound/Laceration Chart

VII. Annex 4
Name .................................................................................. Case No......................................................


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1. Location of the wound
Arm: Right
Arm: Left
Leg: Right
Leg: Left
2. The skin wound is:
3. Centimetres from wound to:
Top of head
Right of midline
Left of midline
4. Wound size in centimetres
5. Course of stab wound

Photographs taken of all wounds: YES …………. NO ………….

REMARKS: ......................................................................................................................................



Examined by: .................................................... Date: .....................................................................

Annex 5. Adult Dental Chart*
VII. Annex 5

Body# ..............................
Post-mortem Dental Age range ......................................
Date ................................. Sex (circle): Male / Female / Unknown
Examination Ancestry .........................................

Please draw the shape of fillings/decay/crowns you can see on the maxillary teeth above.

Please put a cross (x) through teeth that are missing.

Upper Denture > Present (Circle): Y / N Material (Circle): Plastic or metal

Number of teeth on the denture: ………….. Or Full denture (Circle): Y/N

Please provide any specific comments about the upper teeth including staining, wear, fixed crowns or bridges, and
broken teeth, condition of the supporting bone, retained roots, and evidence of gum disease or anatomical variations.




Occlusion (Circle): Overbite / Normal / Underbite

Please draw the shape of fillings/decay/crowns you can see on the maxillary teeth above. Please put a cross (x)
through teeth that are missing.

Lower denture > Present (Circle): Y / N Material (Circle): Plastic or metal

Number of teeth on the denture: …………. Or Full denture (Circle): Y/N

* The contribution to this chart of Richard Bassed and Lyndal Smythe, Human Identification Service, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, is
gratefully acknowledged. Additional quadrants will be needed for deciduous dentition.

86 The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016)
Please provide any specific comments about the lower teeth including staining, wear, fixed crowns or bridges, and
broken teeth, condition of the supporting bone, retained roots, and evidence of gum disease or anatomical variations.




Describe the injuries to the hard tissues (if present):




Describe the injuries to the soft tissues (if present):




Name of Examiner / Doctor: ....................................................................

Signature of Examiner / Doctor: ....................................................................

The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially
Unlawful Death (2016) sets a common standard of performance
in investigating potentially unlawful death and a shared set of
principles and guidelines for States, as well as for institutions and
individuals who play a role in death investigations.

This publication is available for download on the website of the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at:

ISBN: 978-92-1-154220-2

Layout and Printing at United Nations, Geneva – 1714577 (E) – September 2017 – 3,185 – HR/PUB/17/4